Latest pit death prompts nationwide safety review


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The Independent Online

The latest death to shock the British coal mining industry led to calls for a national review of safety yesterday, after warnings that the accident could have been worse.

Gerry Gibson, 49, died inside the Kellingley mine in North Yorkshire on Tuesday night after a section of the roof gave way at the coal face, 800m underground and three miles from the entrance shaft.

UK Coal said a preliminary investigation had found no reason for the roof collapsing. A full investigation by the Health and Safety Executive and North Yorkshire Police is under way.

Chris Kitchen, general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, told i it appeared to have been a "tragic accident", but added: "It's not acceptable that men don't go home at the end of their shift to their families."

Mr Gibson's death was the fifth British mining fatality this month, after four workers drowned at the Gleision Colliery in Wales on 15 September, and the third at the Kellingley mine in three years. Another rock fall there in 2008 led to the death of Don Cook, and the following year Ian Cameron was crushed by machinery.

Mr Cameron's wife called yesterday for the mine to be closed. "I was told that when all this health and safety business was going to get sorted, it would hopefully prevent this happening again and it hasn't," she told the BBC. "It should be shut down. How many other men are going to get killed down there?"

Mr Kitchen said his union did not have specific worries about the North Yorkshire mine but warned it was fortunate that two more miners had not been killed, adding: "The whole workforce is gutted... To lose anybody rips the heart out of morale."

David Brewer, director general of the Confederation of UK Coal Producers, said the rash of deaths was unacceptable. "Mines are naturally dangerous places but that is not to say that there should be accidents."