With over 10.4 per cent share of the Australian economy, mining is a major contributor to the overall national GDP. It employs over 0.13 million Australian blue and white collar workers in roles with varying degrees of difficulty and danger.

Over the years, authorities have formulated a strict legislative framework to improve the health and safety of the personnel working on mining sites. However, it remains one of the higher-risk industries to work in. According to an estimate, the mining industry has the third highest fatality rate, with nine workers dying yearly in the country.

Potential Risk Areas on Mining Sites:

Mining and quarrying involve high-level risk activities that can cause fatal injuries to employees and people in the vicinity. In addition, accidents can damage the site’s expensive machinery or powered haulage. Some of the potential hazards are:

  • Ground failure/rock fall
  • Mobile plant roll-overs and collision
  • Fire and/or explosion, including plant fire, misfires, and wild flyrock
  • Respirable dust exposure, including crystalline silica
  • Loss of ventilation, including blast fumes and confined spaces

Fire threatens underground and surface mining operations, particularly conveyor belt entries. Additionally, fire can be caused by equipment malfunction, spontaneous combustion, welding, lighting and frictional ignition.

Safety Tips To Reduce Mining Accidents:

Flammable liquids, combustible materials, high voltage cables and heavy machinery contribute to the fire risk on mining sites. The remote nature of mining sites further compounds the risk of damage should a fire occur.

Fire protection within the mining industry requires comprehensive risk assessments, detailed plans and effective execution to minimise the potential harm and damage caused by fire onsite. There are a few simple measures that mining companies can take and prepare themselves to minimise risk:

1. Meticulous Risk Assessment

An extensive and intensive fire hazard assessment is the first step in formulating an effective fire protection plan and reducing fatalities and damage.

The nature of fire hazards varies between surface and underground mining operations. They also vary according to different factors such as size, structure, material, equipment and number of personnel.

Some of the typical mining fire hazards include:

  • Welding and cutting operations
  • Inadequate flammable and combustible liquids like lubricating oil, hydraulic fuel and more.
  • Combination of coal dust and methane gas

Once you have comprehensively assessed the potential fire risks associated with mining operations, selecting and installing the proper safety equipment becomes essential.

2. Install Proper Fire Safety Equipment

Investing in proper fire safety equipment is vital to mitigate potential hazardous operations. High-quality, UV resistant, lightweight and durable safety equipment is essential. There is a wide variety of fire safety equipment for mining sites. While safety requirements will vary from mine to mine, some fire protection equipment to consider includes:

  • Fire Extinguisher Cabinets
  • Fire Extinguisher Storage Box
  • Fire Cabinets
  • Hose Reels

3. Audit and Maintenance of Fire Safety Equipment

While the installation of appropriate fire safety equipment is essential, it is useless if the equipment is not maintained and appropriately audited. Inspecting, auditing and maintaining fire protection safety is essential to reduce the risk of malfunction when needed in an emergency situation.

Which Type Of Fire Needs Which Type Of Extinguisher?

Fires will burn and also be extinguished differently according to the fuel they burn and the conditions they form in. You will need specific fire extinguishers to put out fires depending on the fuel they are burning. These different fuel types are referred to as “classes.”

The Classes of Fire:

There are six classes of fire:

  • Class A fires are caused by flammable solids, such as wood, paper, and fabric
  • Class B fires are usually caused by flammable liquids that include petrol, turpentine or paint
  • Class C fires are caused by flammable gases such as LPG, hydrogen, butane or methane
  • Class D fires are caused by combustible chemicals such as magnesium, aluminium or potassium
  • Class E fires are started by faulty electrical equipment
  • Class F fires are caused by cooking oils, typically a chip-pan fire

Water Extinguisher

Water-based extinguishers are used for Class A fires only. These extinguishers should not be used for fires involving electrical equipment, flammable liquids or gases, or cooking oils.

Dry Chemical Powder Extinguisher

Dry Chemical Powder fire extinguishers are primarily used to extinguish the fire by hindering the fire’s chemical reaction. These are effective on Class A, B, and E fires. These extinguishers contain a mono ammonium phosphate chemical powder, which acts as a barrier between the oxygen and fuel elements.

Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher

Carbon Dioxide fire extinguishers extinguish the fire by removing the oxygen element and removing the heat with its cold discharge.

CO2 fire extinguishers contain a non-conductive and non-corrosive extinguishing agent and therefore will cause no damage to electrical equipment. Carbon dioxide can be used on Class B & E fires, and are usually ineffective on Class A fires.

Foam Extinguisher

Foam fire extinguishers form a layer over the top of any burning substance to stop the fire by cutting off access to oxygen, and these are effective in combating Class B fires.

Wet Chemical Extinguisher

Wet Chemical Extinguishers contain a solution of potassium which smothers the fire removing the element of heat. Generally, these are used for Class A and F fires in commercial cooking operations.

Why Are Fire Extinguisher Cabinets Important For Extinguishers?

As fire extinguishers are the first line of defence in a fire accident, keeping them in a secure and easy-to-access location is critical. High-quality polyethylene fire extinguisher cabinets have a sight glass for easy gauge inspection and are usually available with locking and non-locking handle options. Additionally, these cabinets have a fitted step that assists with quickly removing the extinguisher during an emergency.

Preventing Fires in Mining Sites:

Underground mining operations can expose the personnel to fire threats and can be particularly dangerous due to the enclosed space. An underground mine fire can escalate to a catastrophic event. It is, therefore, crucial to have specific safety measures in place to protect the on-site and underground mining workers.

Know the Fuel Source

Once you have identified the fuel and ignition source, it becomes easy to determine the nature and quantity of heat, smoke and fumes. This may considerably impact the consequences and reduce the risk level.

Location of the Fire

The location of an underground fire significantly affects the hazard level; for example, a fire in the central intake airway can pose a significant risk compared to one in exhaust airways.

Proper Mine Ventilation

Proper mine ventilation needs to be considered when evaluating the threat of potential underground fires. Good underground mine ventilation allows the harmful dust and gas in case of a severe fire.

If you are looking for high-quality plastic fire protection equipment, contact FSP Oz Products.

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