Australia is a land blessed with natural resources. Due to this wealth of resources, such as precious metals and minerals, there are countless mining sites in operation all around the country. Although mines can be very productive operations, they can also be extremely dangerous.
Safety is always number one, and each mine has their own strict set of rules and regulations to follow. Like all accidents, fire and explosions can cause catastrophic effects, and something we want to avoid at all cost. Below are a few tips and advice on how to prevent fire and explosions in mines.
1. Fire Safety Training Is an Essential Step in the Process
Not only will this training prove vital in preventing fires or explosions in mines, everyone on-site will know exactly what to do in the event of an explosion or blaze in the mine.
As an example, there’s no point having fire extinguishers located in key locations if the workers have no idea how to use them. Precious time would be lost if anyone had to try and work it out on the fly at the time of an emergency.
Fire protection professionals will run through all the fire safety essentials so everyone knows exactly what to do should a fire or explosion occur.
2. Regular Risk Assessment Should Be Conducted
Professional risk assessors should tour the mining facility on a regular basis to search for potential fire and explosion hazards. While the workers are focused on their individual tasks, sometimes dangers and hazards could be overlooked due to the attention of the workforce being on other things.
Risk assessors will notice hazards right away and these scenarios can be corrected before a problem arises. This might include recognizing the danger of certain fuel sources and worker activity taking place in the same location, such as combustible materials in an area where welding or grinding is being carried out.
3. Keep Vehicles Away From Areas Where Explosives Are Stored
Underground mining operations often rely on the use of explosives to break up the rock so mining can continue. If explosives are stored in an area below ground, it’s wise not to drive vehicles within close proximity of the explosives.
No matter what type of vehicle it is, there will be engine combustion, electronic components and friction involved in the operation of that vehicle. Not to mention exhaust fumes and heat generation. All of these things could present a hazard when near explosives.
4. Heat, Oxygen, and Fuel Are Needed For a Fire
While it may not always be possible, removing any one of these 3 key elements will prevent fires from occurring. If a fire does break out, then the removal of one of the elements will help stop the blaze from spreading.
When risk assessments are routinely carried out, the 3 factors that are essential for a fire to break out should always be given consideration in every aspect of the mining operation.
5. Electrical Equipment Should Regularly Be Checked
There’s nothing like an electrical short as a good way to start a fire. In fact, it’s one of the most common causes of fires in homes.
Underground in a mine, electricity is used everywhere, and there’s just as much potential of an electrical fault causing a fire in a mine as there is in a house.
Having qualified electricians constantly checking equipment, monitoring the use of electricity, replacing or repairing any damaged cables or equipment, and generally just keeping everything electrical up to standard, should be common practice.
With risk assessment, staff training, monitoring procedures and some common sense, fires and explosions in mines can be prevented, giving everyone the peace of mind that their workplace is a safe environment to be in.
Ken Thomas is the director at Total Fire Solutions, fire suppression system designer and installers, and one of the top 3 independent fire system distributors for the Asia Pacific region. His vision is to create a ‘one-stop-shop’ fire protection company committed to NSW mining and heavy industry. He is passionate about and excited by the latest developments in fire protection technology.