Water bottle fire sparks safety warning at mine site

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Tuesday, 24 January, 2023 - 12:45
Policy & legislation
South Australia

SafeWork SA recently issued a warning after an incident in which plastic water bottles left in the sun started a fire at a South Australian mine site.

Clear plastic water bottles left on a pallet in the sun-ignited cardboard packing material on 7 January 2023.

Subsequent investigations at the mine identified the probable ignition source as sunlight that had refracted through the clear bottles. The heat created caused the plastic water bottles to melt and partially burnt the cardboard and wooden pallet.

Workers on site promptly spotted the fire and extinguished it before it spread or caused injury.

The risk of fires sparked by refracted light is well documented, particularly in the mining industry.

Since July 2020, 29 incidents of this nature have been reported to WorkSafe Mines Safety in Western Australia.

The majority of these reported incidents involved transparent plastic bottles filled with water being stored in direct sunlight.

SafeWork SA said businesses should:

  • utilise an undercover or shaded area for unloading transparent bottles containing a clear liquid
  • store transparent bottles containing clear liquid in an undercover, enclosed or shaded area where sunlight cannot shine through the bottles
  • cover transparent bottles containing clear liquids if they are exposed to direct sunlight
  • store clear drink bottles in vehicles away from direct sunlight.