March 25, 2018 | Anne Roberts

1947 Centralia Mine Disaster

On March 25, 1947, the Centralia No. 5 coal mine exploded in Illinois. The explosions took the lives of 111 mine workers. At the time of the explosion, 142 men were in the mine. 65 of these men were killed by burns and the violence of the explosion, and 45 of the men were killed by afterdamp. Only 8 men were rescued, but unfortunately one of the rescued men died due to the effects of afterdamp. The other 24 men were able to escape the mine unaided.

So, what happened? The coal mine was extremely dry and dusty, and there were large deposits of coal dust throughout the mine. Very little effort had been made to to clean/load out excessive dust. Also, water had not been used to allay the dust at its source.  Then, an unfortunate blowout happened when coal dust ignited. Because of the coal dust build up throughout the mine, the explosion worsened. In total, there were six working sections of the mine and 4 out of the 6 sections were affected by flames and explosion violence. The other two sections of the mine were only affected by afterdamp.

The explosion was contained when it reached the rockdusted zones. It traveled through all the active mining rooms, and some abandoned rooms that were not treated with rockdust. The explosion also failed to move through areas that were partly caved in, and in some places filled with incombustible roof rash.

Disasters with a loss of life are often wake-up calls in major industries, and how important is to ensure that it never happens again.

TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis is taught globally to help industries avoid major accidents like this. Our 5-Day TapRooT® Advanced Root Cause Analysis Team Leader Training offers advanced tools and techniques to find and fix root causes pro-actively and significant issues that may lead to major problems proactively.

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