WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert about managing the risks associated with fire on mobile plant in mines and quarries.
The alert was issued following an incident in which a fire occurred in the engine bay of a drill rig used for development and production at an underground metalliferous mine.
The drill rig was tramming to the surface workshop. As the drill rig reached the surface, an employee noticed flames in its engine bay and notified the operator.
The unit was parked and the aqueous film-forming foam fire suppression system was activated to suppress the flames.
Upon investigation, no signs of mechanical or structural failure were detected that may have provided potential fuel sources.
Further analysis discovered remnant paint pieces within the engine bay. This revealed that radiant engine heat had caused a paint can to burst, which provided an ignition source for the vaporised paint.
The alert noted that unsecured combustible objects or debris on mobile plant can create risks to the health and safety of employees and independent contractors by introducing fuel sources into potential ignitions zones, for example, hot surfaces on engines and exhaust systems.
It also recommended a number of ways to control risks, and to reduce the risk of mobile plant fire, mine operators must:
ensure that when combustible items are carried on mobile plant that they are secured and not located within potential ignition zones
review the adequacy of storage compartments and, if necessary, revise the need for transporting objects/items on mobile plant
perform a risk assessment to identify all potential hazards and assess the adequacy of all considered control measures, including what objects or items can be transported on mobile plant and how such items will be secured
ensure pre-task inspections target combustible items located within potential ignition zones
ensure employees are provided with information, training and instruction about how to transport combustible materials in a mine
The alert said mine operators should also consult with employees and include a broad range of expertise and personnel when developing risk assessment teams to ensure all aspects of risk are considered.