So far 2023 has been a deadly year for America’s miners, with seven fatalities in the first six weeks. Three of these deaths involved electrocutions. On Jan. 27, two truck drivers were electrocuted after a 14,400-volt overhead power line came in contact with their trucks. They exited the cabs of their trucks and came in contact with electrical energy. Then on Feb. 6, a haul truck driver raised the truck bed into an overhead power line. The driver exited the truck to extinguish a fire on the truck’s tire and was electrocuted when he tried to reenter the truck.
These kinds of tragedies can be prevented, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration is urging mine operators and miners to Take Time, Save Lives. Putting safety first and following these best practices will help prevent any more deaths or injuries:
Electrical safety when operating vehicles
- Do not stage, park or position trucks, cranes or other equipment under overhead power lines.
- Post warning signs at all approaches to overhead power lines and install barricades where necessary.
- Establish safe approaches and create safe zones for raising and lowering truck beds, booms and masts.
- If your truck, boom or mast contacts an overhead power line:
- Remain inside the vehicle
- Call emergency response personnel
- Inform others to stay away
- Exit the truck only if it is on fire. To exit, jump from the truck landing with both feet together. Do not touch the truck and ground at the same time. Then, shuffle both feet as close as possible for at least 30 feet as you move away from the truck.
- Never work on machinery without locking out and tagging out the power source.
- Don’t go into electrical switchgear. That’s a job for the electrician.
- Replace damaged extension and damaged drop light cords.
- Don’t let mobile equipment run over power conductors, or loads be dragged over any power conductors, unless the conductors are properly bridged or protected.
Safety at major electrical installations
- All major electrical installations must be locked out and checked for stored energy prior to work being performed.
- When a potentially dangerous condition is found it must be corrected before equipment or wiring is energized.
- Only authorized workers should enter areas containing major electrical installations.
- Protect employees working at switchboards by:
- Having dry wooden platforms, insulating mats, or other electrically nonconductive material in place at all switchboards.
- Using power control switches where shock hazards exist.
- All metal enclosing or encasing electrical circuits must be grounded or provided with equivalent protection. (This does not apply to battery-operated equipment.)
- Ground all metal fencing and metal buildings enclosing transformers and switchgear.
- Frame grounding or equivalent protection must be provided for mobile equipment powered through trailing cables.
- Test the continuity and resistance of grounding systems immediately after installation, repair and modification, as well as annually. Keep records of the resistance measured, because the results of the most recent tests may be requested by MSHA.
All miners deserve to go home safe and healthy at the end of their shift. For more mine safety and health information and training materials, visit our website. To report an accident or anonymously report a hazardous condition, call 1-800-746-1553 or use MSHA’s online Hazardous Condition Complaint system.
Marcus Smith is an electrical engineer and is Chief of Accident Investigations at the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Follow MSHA on Twitter and Facebook.