Guidance about addressing some common fire hazards

Fire hazard types

Examples of the more common or dangerous fire hazard types are discussed here. This is not an exhaustive list and mining operators should think in terms of their particular circumstances.

A summation of the many fire hazards present can be found in Prevention of fires in underground mines - guideline. The hazards identified are referenced to underground mines but are applicable to surface operations.

Prevention of fires in underground mines - guideline - 1586 Kb

Prevention of fires in underground mines - guideline: This guideline should be used by anyone planning or conducting underground mining, particularly those persons responsible for the occupational health of workers.

Mobile equipment

Fuel and ignition sources

A mobile equipment fleet often includes a wide range of complex and specialist equipment. Through design and the purpose of the equipment, fuel and ignition sources may be close to each other.

Wear and tear on equipment from long working hours, and the off-road and harsh working conditions mean that mobile equipment fires are one of the more common fire hazards on mines.

The causes of fire are many but simple risk management approaches can reduce the incidence of fire in a mobile equipment fleet.

Fire suppression systems and extinguishment equipment

Fire suppression equipment and fire fighting equipment (e.g. extinguishers) may assist in case of a fire.

AS 5062: Fire protection for mobile and transportable equipment is available for purchase through Standards Australia. The standard specifies the fire risk management process for mobile and transportable equipment, (including vehicles). As well as the design, installation, commissioning, maintenance and listing requirements for engineered and pre-engineered fire protection systems installed on mobile and transportable equipment. Includes performance testing for pre-engineered foam water spray suppression systems.

Underground diesel units

Diesel units in the underground environment have fire suppression system requirements under the Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995.

Foam fire suppression systems on mine vehicles - guideline - 244 Kb

Foam fire suppression systems on mine vehicles - guideline: This guideline has been issued to assist both equipment owners and suppliers in providing a fixed fire suppression system.

Purchase, operation and maintenance of underground diesel engined mining equipment - guideline - 539 Kb

Purchase, operation and maintenance of underground diesel engined mining equipment - guideline: This guideline assists in the purchase, operation and maintenance of diesel engine mining equipment for underground use in metalliferous mines in WA.

Maintenance systems

The fire risk for equipment is strongly influenced by its maintenance record, and compliance with maintenance systems is vital. Maintenance systems should be in place to ensure:

  • mobile and fixed plant is maintained according to the recommendations of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM)
  • any defects are recorded and promptly repaired.

The maintenance system should also store and manage maintenance information, plan maintenance inspections, and servicing and report on equipment and maintenance performance.

Audit

Management of mobile equipment maintenance – audit guide - 202 Kb

This audit guideline provides information on part 4 of the management of mobile equipment maintenance.

Frequently asked questions on self-auditing of mining activities - information sheet - 942 Kb

This information sheet outlines the frequently asked questions on self-auditing of mining activities.

Tyre fires

Tyre fires involve the tyre rubber catching fire (combusting) directly. This is usually initiated by:

  • fire in the engine, wheel motor or brake that spreads to the tyre
  • fire external to the vehicle (e.g. brush fire, ground shale fire) that spreads to the tyre
  • friction from rubber on rubber contact that can happen when a tyre deflates or separates
  • friction from rubber on steel contact (e.g. a wheel or rim spinning inside a flat tyre)
  • heat generated by an explosion.

To learn more about tyre safety and preventing tyre fires, visit Guidance about tyre management

The Tyre safety for earth-moving machinery on Western Australia mining operations - guideline will be available to assist in management, operation and maintenance of a rubber-tyred heavy vehicle fleet.

Electrical fires and fires through hot works

Below is the list of links that you may find useful.

Explosives and dangerous goods fires

You can search for the safety alerts released by the Chief Dangerous Goods Officer, as well as information on the use, storage, handling, transport and disposal of explosives and other dangerous goods, in the Publications and resources area below and download them as a PDF.

You can search for the safety performance reports and posters in the Safety statistics area and download them as a PDF.

Fires underground

Prevention of fires is priority

The underground working environment has many of the same fire hazards that are present on surface. However the nature of the working environment is confined, the ability to evacuate quickly is restricted, and ventilation is by mechanical means with the potential for smoke and noxious fumes to not dissipate or be removed quickly enough.

The prevention is a priority for underground mines as fires can lead to:

  • entrapment
  • smoke inhalation
  • serious or fatal burns
  • asphyxiation
  • other serious consequences such as explosions.

Prevention of fires in underground mines - guideline - 1586 Kb

Prevention of fires in underground mines - guideline: This guideline should be used by anyone planning or conducting underground mining, particularly those persons responsible for the occupational health of workers.

Underground mobile equipment fires - mine safety matters pamphlet - 1747 Kb

This mine safety matters pamphlet contains information on the hazards and recommended safe work practices when there is an underground mobile equipment fire.

Audit

Underground fire prevention - audit guide - 204 Kb

This audit guideline provides information on the guide to underground fire prevention audit.

Frequently asked questions on self-auditing of mining activities - information sheet - 942 Kb

This information sheet outlines the frequently asked questions on self-auditing of mining activities.

Refuge chambers

There is the potential in underground mines for an irrespirable atmosphere to be generated as a result of fire.

This guideline provides information on the management and use of refuge chambers designed to protect people from exposure to irrespirable atmospheres underground during an emergency.

Refuge chambers in underground mines - guideline - 1564 Kb

Refuge chambers in underground mines - guideline: This guideline provides information on management and use of refuge chambers designed to protect people from exposure to irrespirable atmospheres underground during an emergency.

Bush fires

In many areas of Western Australia, bush fires can be a seasonal or year-round hazard. For remote mine sites or exploration camps away from regional centres or near communities with little infrastructure, these external threats can be challenging. There is the risk of loss of services and infrastructure, loss of production and a threat to lives.

Apart from reducing the potential for site personnel to accidentally start a bush fire, control measures are about responding to the fire. An emergency plan is required, including how the site might be evacuated should the need arise.

To keep up to date with the latest information, visit the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

For sites in the northern parts of Australia, the North Australian Fire Information website provides a information on fires, including fire spread and conditions, as well as a library of resources.

The Bureau of Meteorology WA Warnings Summary provides fire warnings.

Other resources such as Shire offices, land owners and nearby operations can provide local information (e.g. burn offs).

Further information: A total fire ban can be declared due to extreme weather conditions or when widespread fires are stretching firefighting resources. The ban includes all open air fires for the purpose of cooking or camping, in addition to incinerators, welding, grinding, soldering or gas cutting activities. Exemptions can be applied for.

For more information on total fire bans and exemptions, visit the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

MSB No. 090: Total fire bans and implications for mining - 86 Kb

Mines Safety Bulletin No. 090: Total fire bans and implications for mining (21 December 2009)