(Wyoming Business Report, May 1) – In a high-risk industry known for having mobile equipment as large as houses, the Wyodak Mine earned the Wyoming State Inspector of Mines’ commendation for a perfect safety record for the fourth year straight.
In 2013, the mine outside Gillette operated by a subsidiary of Black Hills Corp. recorded no lost time accidents, a trend that began in 2010 for the mine.
“We take great pride in our safety record and consider zero incidents the only acceptable outcome,” said Mark Lux, vice president and general manager of power delivery for Black Hills Corp. in a release.
According to the release, Lux chalked up the recognition to a “relentless safety culture.”
“We have a clear understanding that safety isn’t about statistics, but about people and the co-workers, friends and family they work safely for each day,” Lux said.
Wyodak Mine employees have previously earned the Sentinels of Safety Award from the National Mining Association and the Mine Safety and Health Administration three times for making safety a way of life.
Though spic and span in recent years, the mine hasn’t always had a spotless record. In October 2008, the driver of an end-dump haul truck backed into another truck that was in her blind spot, killing the production technician who was on the deck of that parked truck. The accident occurred despite the driver following safety procedures by honking the horn three times to signal that she was backing up.
That year, the mine faced nearly $35,000 in safety violations that year, including one 103(k) citation because of the accident. That kind of violation is only given when an accident results in the death or serious injury to a miner “and the inspector believes that the hazardous condition(s) or practice(s) causing that accident is likely to exist elsewhere at the mine.” Wyodak also got 23 lesser 104(a) citations that year.
In 2009, the mine faced even more penalties on 104(a) citations with nearly $69,000 in penalties. In the subsequent years, that number has dwindled from $16,000 in 2010 to less than $1,600 in 2013.
Over the improved period, the mine has cut its operator hours by nearly 50 percent. In 2009, the year the mine received the most citations from the MSHA, operators worked more than 234,000 hours to mine more than 6 million tons of coal. By 2013, that had been slashed to less than 119,000 hours to produce about 4.3 million tons of coal.
Among programs that have improved safety at the mine, the release pointed to the mine’s “Eyes-on-Safety” initiative, a hazard identification and risk assessment process that includes near-miss reporting with a strong emphasis on hazard mitigation to avoid reoccurrence and regular safety audits, among other measures.