Mine owners may face fines in fatal accident

A Moffat County coal mine is facing nearly $200,000 in proposed fines for alleged safety violations in connection with a truck accident in which a worker died.

The action stems from a July 14, 2012, incident in which Jason Kawcak, 25, of Craig was driving a water truck up a steep grade at the Colowyo Mine. The truck rolled back down the hill, striking a berm and ejecting him.

According to citations by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Kawcak was not wearing a seat belt and was impaired as a result of the use of an inhalant.

Those actions were contrary to the mine’s posted safety rules, the federal agency said.

“The mine operator failed to establish and maintain an effective program of instruction with respect to the safety regulations and procedures to be followed at the mine,” according to one of the MSHA citations.

It says the mine failed to give Kawcak task training for operating the truck, including braking, steering, shutdown and other emergency procedures, nor was a checklist used to verify such training was completed.

The truck had arrived at the mine 12 days before the accident.

“The mine displayed aggravated conduct above ordinary negligence by allowing miners to operate this piece of mobile equipment without training the operators of water truck completely. Fatal injuries occurred as a result of this practice. This violation is an unwarrantable failure to comply with a mandatory standard,” MSHA contends.

It says the mine has retrained miners in seat belt use, revised its task training and retrained all miners and contractors with respect to its safety program.

However, the mine appears to be contesting the fines, based on information on MSHA’s website, said agency spokeswoman Amy Louviere.

It faces possible fines of $70,000, $52,500, $52,500 and $23,300 in connection with four citations MSHA issued against it early this year.

The surface coal mine is located between Meeker and Craig. It is operated by Colowyo Coal Co. LP, and controlled by Western Fuels Association Inc. and Tri-State Generation and Transmission, according to MSHA.

The mine’s manager could not be reached for comment Friday.


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