Page images

have given the air a better chance to get up and clear any gas that had accumulated in this working face.

Some of these men in this area were able to get out by themselves. Some of the others were not. One man, I think, was not recovered for at least an hour after the ignition or explosion. It was at least an hour before they got to him.

It is in the report. I don't have the figures at my fingertips at the present time.

Senator WILLIAMS. I think it was an hour and 15 minutes.

Now under the law it is spelled out how much air is supposed to be reaching that face?

Mr. WESTFIELD. That is correct.

Senator WILLIAMS. When we are talking about the face, where is the face after a box cut like that? You have the deep face and the beginning face. Am I right?

Mr. WESTFIELD. The law itself does not define the location of a working face at this point. The regulations put in the Federal Register by the Bureau of Mines stated the face would be the furthermost projection of the advanced working. We call that the face of the box cut.

Senator WILLIAMS. Now this is where the air had reached now on the partial inspection that had been undertaken 2 days before certain findings were made, but this procedure was not discovered ; am I right?

Mr. WESTFIELD. That is correct. The time our inspector, the Bureau of Mines inspector, was at this working face, it had not been advanced to this depth. It was back from this location about-I am estimating here—I would say 40 or 50 feet from the location where this explosion occurred. He observed the operation of the loading machine in this working face. He also took an air reading at the end of the line curtain and the line curtain had extended to about 24 or 25 feet from the end of the box cut, which was being made at that time.

The box cut in this case was only driven 10 feet in advance of the face. The miner operator then pulled the machine out of the box cut and cut the left rib and straightened up the face. The inspector made a test for gas at the working face after it had been squared up and found 0.5 to 0.7 percent methane with a methane detector.

He detected no gas on his flame safety lamp. At that time there was not an explosive mixture in the place at the end of the line curtain. He took an air reading and found more than 3,000 cubic feet per minute, which is required under the law.

Senator Williams. The last time we talked this over at the hearing, there was a discussion about the air split. You haven't mentioned that in this recap situation. What was that all about?

Mr. WESTFIELD. The air split—this was a question when the investigation of this explosion was first started, whether each operating unit was ventilated by a separate split of air. The inspector, when he was there, did not determine this situation because he did not cover all of the two working units in this one section.

He only inspected the faces of one unit, which was our interpretation under the schedule that was put in the Federal Register, the working section consisted of a group of equipment and was determined by one loading unit or one continous miner. As a result, he had inspected this working section at all of the places that was operated by this one machine. He had not inspected the places on the left-hand side, which were being mined by another machine. But both of these units were ventilated by one continuous split of air.

Senator WILLIAMS. That is what was determined later!
Mr. WESTFIELD. That is right.

Senator Williams. This is the way I recall the deseription of it last week.

Mr. Richard D. Siegel, legislative counsel to Senator Schweiker, would like to ask a few questions.

Mr. SIEGEL. You said that a methane test was taken outside this box cut or right at the beginning of the box cut. Was that taken by one of the miners?

Mr. WESTFIELD. This test that you are talking about was made on the day of the explosion. The investigation report indicates that the machine operator after driving the box cut in a distance of 14.5 feet, pulled the machine back out and he made a test for gas at the entrance of this box cut as far as he could reach in with his arms.

Previously, before putting the machine back into the box cut, he did not test at the face. He tested, I would say, about 12 feet back from the face.

Mr. SIEGEL. The person who was killed was the helper?
Mr. WESTFIELD. That is correct.
Mr. Siegel. Did the helper move the machine back into the box cut?

Mr. WESTFIELD. No, his job was primarily cleaning up and keeping the ventilation up to this working face. The machine operator is the man that moved the machine back into the working face.

Mr. SIEGEL. The helper went with him?

Mr. WESTFIELD. I don't know whether he had moved or not, but he was practically at the same position that he had been previously before they moved it in.

Mr. SIEGEL. Are you saying, then, that the machine operator might have anticipated that ventilation is very poor when the machine fills up the box cut? Would it have been more prudent for the machine operator to make more space in the box cut before taking the mining machine back in?

Mr. WESTFIELD. This is one way of doing it. Another way is not to drive a box cut to that depth. In other words, it can be accomplished a number of ways.

In many gassy mines in some areas where they have high liberation of methane, they will only drive enough to load one shuttle car. When the shuttle car is being changed out, the machine operator will pull the machine back and move it over and cut the other side of the face so he is not losing production.

This was not the case in this mine.

Mr. SIEGEL. Is there any regulation limiting the depth of a box cut in certain gassy mines?

Mr. WESTFIELD. We have in many instances, after an explosion or an instance of this type, restricted the depth of cuts. We have also indicated the method of ventilating these places so that we may prevent this type of ignition.

Mr. SIEGEL. What had been done in this particular mine to prevent this occurrence?

Mr. WESTFIELD. In this instance they have now gone to a different method. They don't drive the box cuts so deep and they have to keep the line curtain within 10 feet of the working face.


They have been able to do this by making an angle box cut so that the machine does not interfere with the line curtain.

Mr. SIEGEL. Would this be a good rule to apply in other mines right now without waiting for another accident?

Mr. WESTFIELD. The conditions vary so much that you could not come to a definite procedure in each and every instance. We try to keep the line curtain as close to the working face as we can. If we can keep it within 10 feet in every instance, that would be very good. But there are circumstances where this becomes very difficult, primarily because of the type of machine that you have. Some of them are far longer than 10 feet and they fill up the entire working face.

In such instances auxiliary-type ventilation is used in most of the cases to provide ventilation right at the working face.

Mr. SIEGEL. Is it possible to improve the ventilation so that even if the machine goes into a deep box cut, it fills up nearly the whole box cut, ventilation will be adequate ? How would you provide for that in a scheme of mine safety regulations?

Mr. WESTFIELD. Normally by installing ventilating fans on the machine itself, which we call diffusers, and by using auxiliary ventilation to ventilate the working face itself.

Mr. SIEGEL. How can you be sure, then, in these gassy mines that every time they go into a deep box cut like this without making it wide enough, they are not going to have a similar accident?

Mr. WESTFIELD. You can never tell this in any coal mine for the simple reason that it depends on the action of the men and the method of driving a place. Each and every cut is different. Unless the proper mining plan is followed there is no assurance that you are always going to keep the ventilation up at that working face.

You have to carry the air with you with each and every move. What you see in a working place today is not what you might see tomorrow or within maybe 2 or 3 hours.

Mr. SIEGEL. Is what you are saying that going around and inspecting, per se, is not going to help prevent something from happening?

Mr. WESTFIELD. I wouldn't go that far. Neither Congress nor the Bureau of Mines nor anyone else would put all this money in inspection if we did not believe that inspection had some advantage and that it did prevent accidents. We believe that very strongly.

Any plan of ventilation has to be complied with continuously to assure a safe mine. If you deviate from this at any time, you can have an ignition or an explosion or you can have an accident when you are not living up to the plan. Congress made a very good decision in stating that ventilation plans had to be adopted and approved by the Bureau of Mines.

This would give us better assurance that we are going to have consistent ventilation at the working faces.

Mr. SIEGEL. When this accident occurred, was some standard being violated that contributed to the accident? Were they in violation of some standard that had a direct cause or effect on this accident!

Mr. WESTFIELD. Yes, there was a standard that was being violated in that there was an accumulation of gas in this working place and it was over 1 percent. If it had not been there, there would have been no explosion or ignition.

Mr. MITTELMAN. I think the act requires a test every 20 minutes, is that correct?

Mr. WESTFIELD. That is correct.

Mr. MITTELMAN. Was this one of those tests, the normal test that was made?

Mr. WESTFIELD. That's right, this was made with the flame safety lamp. It was made apparently within just a few minutes before the ignition, but the test was made at the entrance of the box cut and not at the face of the box cut.

Mr. MITTELMAN. That was a violation of the act, was it not?
Mr. WESTFIELD. This could be, yes.

Mr. MITTELMAN. Was it or wasn't it? Hasn't the Bureau determined whether, in fact, it was a violation of the act?

Mr. WESTFIELD. I would say yes. Apparently the reason the man did not take the test, he was looking for his own safety in that there was bad roof in this box cut and he apparently decided that he wouldn't go to the face to make this inspection.

Mr. MITTELMAN. I think this is a matter of great concern. Are we to understand, then, that the Bureau is prepared to waive a requirement for proper testing for methane if there is a bad roof? What I am concerned about, frankly, is how the Bureau can act to prevent this kind of accident from happening in the future.

Mr. WESTFIELD. I think your answer is in the investigation report, which includes recommendations to keep the line curtain within 10 feet of the face so that the ventilation is always at the working face, and that they make ventilation and before advancing into any working face.

This has already been determined and made a part of the record in the investigation report of this accident.

Mr. MITTELMAN. Is there any citation for violation being issued for the operator of the mine in which this explosion took place?

Mr. WESTFIELD. I did not understand that question.

Mr. MITTELMAN. Has any citation or notice of violation been issued concerning the failure to test at the back end of a box cut?

Mr. WESTFIELD. I believe so. I would have to check the orders issued by the people who made this investigation, but I believe there was.

Mr. WHEELER. Could I comment for a minute on how we are going to deal with these kinds of situations generally and not specifically on this particular mine?

The way the act provides a mechanism for us to avoid these kinds of things in the future is the section of the act which provides that the Bureau will approve ventilation and roof control plans. We are in the process of doing this now, but we have not yet approved all of these ventilation and roof support plans.

We are going to do this on a mine-by-mine basis. So that mine when we do it—we have not done it yet—will have a particular ventilation plan and a particular roof control plan and then if he does not comply with that plan, continuously he will be in violation of the law. So I think this will take care of it in the future. It did not take care of it in this particular situation.

Of course, they can always violate the plan when we are not there. The question in general whether or not a violation was cited because a man did not make the required test, when we were not there, is a


question I am not sure we know the answer to, because I don't know whether we can legally cite him for being in violation of the law when we were not there to see it.

We could, of course, issue a withdrawal order; we could do other things.

Mr. MITTELMAN. You are not taking the position that if you have appropriate evidence of a violation that you can't cite him just because your inspector wasn't there?

Mr. WHEELER. That is a legal question that I can't answer, Mr. Mittelman. I will let one of our lawyers handle that one.

Mr. GERSHUNY. I think that we would cite them if there was adequate evidence, but under the circumstances I think you have to realize that the most important thing is to find out what had actually caused it so as to actually prevent it in the future.

Under those circumstances the Bureau is more concerned with its investigation of the accident rather than merely citing the operator for a violation. One is much more important than the other, but I think that under section 104 the Bureau would be authorized if it had adequate evidence.

Mr. FEDER. Mr. Westfield, does the report disclose—I doubt if you have had a chance to look at the report since you gave that to me the beginning of the week, and I still have it-does the report disclose whether this miner was operating the machine and cutting the way he was on his own decision or under the usual practice in the mine or on instructions of the foreman?

Mr. WESTFIELD. In this instance there was a foreman on the section, but, according to the report, he had been notified by somebody they were short of

rock dust in the area and he had gone back to the belt entry to secure some rock dust so that they could bring the rock dust up to standard.

He was not in the working place at that time. Normally, all the work in these working sections is under the supervision of the foreman. All the activities are watched very closely. They work as a unit.

Mr. MITTELMAN. I just have one more question. There was testimony before about the failure to have a separate split of air to ventilate this particular mine where the ignition or explosion occurred. In the Bureau's judgment, did that violation in any way contribute to the explosion?

Mr. WESTFIELD. No; the inspector did not cite this because he had no knowledge of it.

Mr. MITTELMAN. I am not asking whether the inspector cited it. Is the fact that there was not a separate split of air to ventilate this particular section a cause of this explosion

Mr. WESTFIELD. I do not believe so. The accumulation of gas came from the cutting of this box cut and this is where the gas was being liberated. If the separate split had contributed to this, the explosion would have been far more extensive and would have extended into the other section. The explosion was confined purely to the box cut in that working face.

Maybe what little gas was coming from the other section might have contributed to this, but very, very slightly. The main point was that the box cut was not ventilated. There is evidence that there was

« PreviousContinue »