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Quarry Worker’s Death Serves as a Dangerous Reminder

July 17, 2015 Workers' Compensation

A little publicized fact has been the increasing number of fatal accidents in quarries and other non-coal mines across the region. The gruesome death of a production supervisor in Jefferson serves as such a reminder.

Coal Worker Bleeds Out in Jefferson

Chris Melton worked at the sand mine in Jefferson, South Carolina. While repairing a broken pump with a heat torch, the pump exploded, fatally sending hot metal shards into his leg. Melton bled out in the 50 minutes following, and his colleagues called 9-11 because they couldn’t get in contact with the facility’s office for help.

His death is one of many in the quarry/mining industry. Quarry deaths are varied in their causes but are typically due to falls and explosions. Officials have noticed an uptick in quarries and mining facilities that focus on sand, gravel, stone, and other non-coal materials. In 2014, 28 miners in the region died. Since 2000, 418 workers have died nationwide in non-coal mines. Nine of those were in North Carolina and eight in South Carolina. Considering the number of active mines in the area, this is extremely worrisome.

While North Carolina has almost 200 active mines and South Carolina has almost 90 and it is an industry that drives development in the area, facilities are engaging in cost-saving cutbacks. The result is lower number of workers, insufficient training, and fewer inspections. As in the case of Melton, supervisors are working on tasks that are typically reserved for other employees because of the lack of manpower. This forces improperly trained individuals working on something they shouldn’t be doing in the first place.

In the case of Melton, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration investigated the facility and procedures surrounding his death. The company faced significant citations for not providing proper training, for disregarding the manufacturers’ warning that heat should not be used on the pump, and for not having proper safety and medical care in place to assist injured workers. The company is, of course, challenging the investigation’s findings.

As many workers can attest, companies often have little regard for their workers’ value and well-being. There is no shortage of folks looking for employment in the region and the mines/quarries know that. As such, there is no incentive for them to update their policies or maintain stronger safety protocols. Workers and their families, on the hand, suffer. It is through the legal process, be it a civil lawsuit or the workers’ compensation system, that workers can then recover for their injuries and hopefully force changes in their work site.

Speak with an Experienced Attorney

The complexities of work-related injuries or death makes it incredibly important that you hire an experienced attorney who can walk you through the process. In some cases you can only go through the workers’ compensation system but in others you have the ability to pursue a civil lawsuit. Please contact Wallace Childers PLLC for help with your case.