Fine proposed in fatal mishap at pit mine

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 17, 2006

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and HealthAdministration has proposed a $127,000 fine against a LincolnCounty contractor following a worker’s death at the company’s pitmine last June.

The fine levied against Oddee Smith and Sons Construction Inc.results from the death of heavy equipment operator GervariusDickey, 22, of Brookhaven, June 29 at Macedonia Pit Mine. Thecompany has 30 days to appeal the fine.

Jeff Walker, of Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens and Cannada LawFirm in Jackson, which is representing Oddee Smith and Sons in thecase, said an appeal is certain. He declined further comment.

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“We’re not going to have any comment on a pending legal matter,”Walker said.

Gervarius Dickey, who had been employed by Oddee Smith and Sonsfor three months, was killed when the pan scraper he was operatingoverturned. He was pinned beneath the cab when he was moving dirton a hill and got too close to the edge.

An MSHA investigation determined three of the four brakes on thepan scraper had been intentionally disabled and its continuedoperation permitted with management’s knowledge, according to anagency press release.

The proposed fine of $127,000 was assessed for safety violationscontributing to the accident. The fine includes $52,500 for failureto maintain the pan scraper’s brakes in functional condition;$52,500 for continued use of the scraper with inadequate brakes;and $22,000 for failure to provide a berm or impeding device on theelevated edge of the stockpile.

MSHA found that the brake violations resulted from theoperator’s reckless disregard while the berm violation resultedfrom the operator’s high negligence, according to the release.Reckless disregard is the highest level of negligence MSHA cancite.

“The safety and health of miners must be protected every day.The failure of any mine operator to provide safe working conditionscarries a high risk for their miners and will not be tolerated,”said MSHA’s Acting Administrator David G. Dyre in the release.”MSHA will assess strong penalties, as in this case, when a minersuffered fatal injuries because the operator failed to provide safeworking conditions.”

The agency can assess fines ranging from $60 to $60,000 perviolation based on the nature of the violation, the level ofnegligence and several legal factors.