October 6, 2020 | Mark Paradies

SkyLine Mines Success Story: Using TapRooT® to Improve Investigations, Stop Fault Finding, Reduce Injuries, & Cut Workers’ Compensation Costs

Success Stories from the Past

At the 2020 Global TapRooT® Summit, I told stories of TapRooT® Users’ success. I thought I would pass along the original blog posting again to refresh people on what can be accomplished by applying TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis. Here is the first success story from Skyline Mines…

Using TapRooT® to Improve Investigations,
Stop Fault Finding, Reduce Injuries, & Cut Workers’ Compensation Costs

Submitted by Dave Hales, Safety & Compliance Supervisor,
Skyline Mines, Canyon Fuel Company, LLC


Skyline Mines is an underground coal-mining operation with more than 350 employees. Our challenge is to go from a company with a better-than-average, lost-time injury, and reportable injury rate to an injury-free workplace.


In January of 1996, our focus shifted from formal investigation and review of just MSHA reportable injuries to investigation and measurement of all incidents. Prevention efforts were then focused on the elimination of these injury-causing events. The underlying principle being that the only difference between a Worker’s Compensation injury, MSHA reportable, or lost time accident was the severity and that severity had nothing to do with what had caused the incident. We began to focus more and more on the root causes of the injury-causing events.

In January of 1997, the use of Multiple Causation Theory was implemented into the Incident Review Process. We recognized the value of using this theory. We also recognized that we were lacking a process with which to apply it. Since its implementation, the TapRooT® System has provided us that process.

In April of 1997, our Safety Manager and Production Superintendent attended a 2-Day TapRooT® Course in Denver, Colorado. Upon their return, we conducted training for our management group. We began to apply the TapRooT® Techniques in our formal Incident Reviews. This provided us a process with which to apply Multiple Causation Theory.

Our reviews were immediately more effective. The process was less threatening and our employees who have been exposed to this have all commented that our review process has changed from a fault-finding event to a fact-finding process. The result of this is reflected in the 1997 safety performance which resulted in about a 50% improvement in our lost time injury and reportable injury rates (which are well below industry averages – see the results below in the Results section).

Management commitment to the safety process has accelerated our rate of improvement dramatically. It is also helping to establish safety as a value within our organization. Our Production Superintendent attending TapRooT® courses is simple evidence of that commitment.

All incidents are required to be reported to the first-line supervisor. This supervisor is responsible to conduct the initial investigation of each of these incidents. If the incident meets pre-established criteria (all injuries and those near-miss incidents with potential for serious injury, property damage incidents which result in damages exceeding $500, and oil spills in excess of 55 gallons), it is reviewed through a formal incident review process. This review is attended by the employee, his supervisor, all department managers, the shift foreman, and the General Manager. This review is led by the Department Manager. The Safety Manager is a consultant facilitator to this process.


 A look at the safety performance from the past five years tells the story.

  1995  1996   1997 1998 1999
Underground Coal National  Rates
Reportable Rate 13.50  10.37 11.42 11.71 10.8
Lost Time Injury Rate 10.57 8.02 8.30 8.90 8.30

Skyline Mines

Reportable Rate  9.90  7.65  3.90  4.51  2.43
Lost Time Injury Rate  8.25  3.91  1.95  3.18  1.73
MSHA Violations 205 118   77 112 114

Comp. Costs

$182,644 $226,699 $67,668 $1.2MM $44,130

Except for the unfortunate off-site traffic accident in 1998 in which a drunk driver crossed the centerline and struck a company vehicle head-on (resulting in a fatality and a workers’ compensation claim for over a million dollars), the trend in injuries and workers compensation costs over the past five years is clear. Our efforts at Skylines Mines are saving about $150,000 per year in workers’ compensation claims and, more importantly, saving about 20 employees each year from the pain and suffering caused by lost time injuries.

The improvements in safety performance at Skyline Mines cannot be attributed to any one component but is a direct result of each and every inter-related component in the process. We believe that typical safety programs have a starting and an ending point. Our objective is to maintain a safety process that is continually developing and adapting to the needs of the organization. TapRooT® is part of that developing process.

Our objective is that safety will be changed from a priority to a value within our organization. If safety is a value, it is not compromised. It becomes part of every decision that is made and every action that is taken.

We have learned that the TapRooT® System can be used for far more than just accident investigations. It can be used to investigate equipment failures, process failures, and on a more proactive basis, it is a thought process that can be applied when planning a project or a program. We were able to modify the application of this process in order to meet the needs of our organization and truly make it our own.

The results achieved over the past five years were recognized two times by the Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute. Skyline received the Safety Achievement award in the Underground Mining Division in recognition of the overall improvement in safety performance over the past five years. We also received the Ashland Oil Company Chairman’s Challenge Award in the area of Safety and Emergency Management. Continued improvement in the development of the safety process at Skyline will help us achieve our objective, an injury-free workplace. TapRooT® is a key element in that process.

We continue to use TapRooT® to identify problems and improve performance. The results have been outstanding.

Root Cause Analysis, Success Stories & Testimonials
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