A “rogue” employee ignored his training and was responsible for one worker suffering a shock while changing a fuse on a high-voltage switch house at the company’s Geronimo Mine, company officials said.
Nonetheless, RoxCoal of Friedens, PA, will have to pay a $110,000 federal workplace safety fine for an electrical hazard.
RoxCoal of Friedens received the fine, reduced from the original amount of $150,200 proposed by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
Lori J. Mason, general counsel and manager-government affairs, said the fine was the result of an electrician doing something that was against the company safety standards.
“The employee was not authorized to do what he did,” she said. “We cannot predict when someone goes rogue, but that’s what he did. We took extensive measures to prevent it.”
The fine is the result of an Oct. 30, 2007, incident in which a miner suffered a shock while changing the fuse on a high-voltage switch house at Geronimo Mine. The mine’s chief electrician intentionally had disabled the safety switch two days prior to sending the miner and a co-worker to change fuses. As a result, the miners worked within inches of 7,200 live volts while performing this work.
Mason said the company was able to have the original fine of $150,200 reduced to $110,000 because RoxCoal acted in good faith.
Mason said the commission reported, “The stipulated facts and Rox’s unrefuted assertions indicate that the company was in fact ‘blind sided’ by (the company’s electrician’s) conduct. They also indicate that the company did much that was right to meet the obligations imposed on it by the (Federal Mine Safety and Health) Act.
“It provided all training required by MSHA. It provided additional training beyond that required, including training on the hazards of electrical shock. It conducted weekly and monthly safety meetings. It instituted a safety incentive program at all of its mines with the goal of totally preventing lost-time accidents. It implemented a safety policy in 2006 that delineated certain unsafe acts which included a penalty/disciplinary structure for miners whose actions were deemed unsafe. . . . The court concludes that these factors clearly mitigate the company’s negligence, as does the fact that (the electrician’s) conduct was idiosyncratic, unpredictable and contrary to Rox’s policies.
“Despite proper training and reasonable precautions, an operator’s agent may intentionally, unexpectedly and negligently put himself and others at risk by violating the most elementary safety standards. When as here, the record reveals that the operator has taken all reasonable measures to prevent that conduct and has no forewarning it may occur, it does not further the purpose of the Act to assess the operator a penalty near the maximum the law allows.”
RoxCoal fixed the violation within an hour. The condition existed, however, for at least two production shifts, putting the miners at risk of serious injury or death, Administrative Law Judge David Barbour wrote in his decision.
The company discharged the electrician, according to the document.