The fatality report has been released in the death of a contractor at the Ohio County Coal Company’s Ohio County Mine, located in Marshall County by the U.S Department of Labor.

On January 14, 2022, at approximately 7:00 a.m., Jeffrey Phillips arrived at the preparation plant. Phillips traveled with the NexGen crew, including Kenneth Rowan, General Superintendent; Chad Douglas, Lead Man; and Shawn Husner, Laborer, to the plant feed transfer belt conveyor (400 belt) to discuss the type of work they were there to complete. The 400 belt is located between the fifth and sixth floors of the preparation plant. Rowan informed the NexGen crew that the 400 belt’s snub roller, which maintains belt tension as the belt moves around the drive assembly of the belt conveyor, was damaged and they needed to replace it.  Phillips and Husner went to their vehicles to gather the tools and equipment needed to complete the replacement.  Douglas traveled to the plant’s motor control center and locked and tagged out the 400 belt.  Rowan left the preparation plant to check on another job at an adjacent property.

After Rowan left, Husner brought tools in and set up cutting torches.  Douglas and Phillips returned to the 400 belt, removed tension from the belt by raising the counterweight with chain hoists, and blocked it against motion.  Douglas and Phillips started dismantling the snub roller bearing assemblies.  Phillips then retrieved a ladder and helped Douglas hang two sets of chain hoists from the belt conveyor structure to support the snub roller during removal.  Douglas and Phillips removed the damaged snub roller, moved it down the catwalk onto the landing below, and then moved the new roller up the catwalk and prepared it for installation.  They secured the new roller with the chain hoists and placed it under the top belt.

In an interview, Douglas stated that both he and Phillips used fall protection two separate times earlier in the shift.  As Phillips was climbing on the top belt to operate the offside chain hoist Douglas, standing on the catwalk right beside Phillips, told him twice to put on his fall protection.  However, Phillips did not put on his fall protection.  A short time later, Douglas bent down to see how high Phillips would have to hoist the roller, saw Phillips fall from the 400 belt to the fourth floor, and yelled out.  Husner was on the fifth floor, preparing oxygen and acetylene tanks for use, when he heard Douglas yell.  Husner turned and saw Phillips lying on the concrete floor.

Douglas and Husner rushed to assess Phillips.  Douglas checked for a pulse, and finding none, called Rowan. Douglas called 911 at 11:14 a.m.  Rowan traveled to the preparation plant and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid on Phillips.

The Benwood Volunteer Fire Department arrived at 11:21 a.m. and continued CPR until Marshall County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrived at 11:26 a.m.  EMS could not detect a pulse from Phillips, and they were unable to resuscitate him.  Marshall County EMS contacted Dr. Stephanie Van Alsten, MD, at West Virginia University Medical Command, who pronounced Phillips dead at 11:34 a.m.

On January 14, 2022, at 11:41 a.m., Matthew Cunningham, Safety Director, called the Department of Labor National Contact Center (DOLNCC).  The DOLNCC contacted Tyler Peddicord, Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector, who contacted Michael Stark, Staff Assistant.  Stark sent Andrew Stalder, Mine Safety and Health Inspector, to the mine as the lead accident investigator.  Stark also sent Larry Johnson, Supervisory Mine Safety and Health Inspector, to the mine.

Stalder and Johnson arrived at the preparation plant at 12:55 p.m. and Stalder issued an order under the provision of Section 103(k) of the Mine Act to assure the safety of the miners and preservation of evidence.  Stark contacted Matthew Taylor, Civil Engineer, and sent him to the mine to help with the investigation.  MSHA conducted the investigation in conjunction with the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training (WVOMHST), Ohio County Coal Resources, Inc., NexGen, and the United Mine Workers of America who represents the miners for Ohio County Coal and NexGen.

The accident investigation team conducted an examination of the accident scene and interviewed miners, mine management, the miners’ representative, contract employees, and contractor management.  Investigators also reviewed work conditions and practices relevant to the accident.  Interviews were conducted on February 1, 2022, at the WVOMHST office in Westover, West Virginia. 

Overall, the investigation said Phillips, a contract laborer with over 13 years of mining experience, was fatally injured when he fell from an elevated work location.

The accident occurred because the contractor (NexGen Industrial Services Inc.) did not assure that miners used safety belts and lines while working from an elevated work location.

The mine and NexGen Industrial Services Inc. each received a citation.