Wormald National Product Manager – Vehicle Systems, Steve Oxley examines
the issue of vehicle fires on mine sites and their impact on the mining
Vehicle fires continue to be a significant and costly risk for the
mining industry. A report published by New South Wales Mine Safety reveals
mobile plant fires accounted for 76 per cent of mechanical plant fires in NSW
underground mines between 2008 and 2012 with a total of 128 mechanical plant fires
reported for the period. However, 44 per cent of these fires were caused by
human error and poor management.
Even simple fire safety oversights can have serious consequences when
managing a mine site’s mobile fleet, endangering the life and health of staff
while also damaging vehicles, resulting in costly downtime.
Common issues that may increase the risk of vehicle fire on mine sites
include failure to undertake routine and regular maintenance of the vehicle; operating
a vehicle beyond the manufacturer’s recommended time; taking a cursory approach
to assessing fire risks; and failure to install suitable vehicle fire
The mining industry is heavily reliant on mobile plant, making it
imperative that mine site operators implement checks and balances to identify
and address these issues.
Undertaking routine and regular
maintenance of vehicles
Mine site trucks are operated for extended periods of time, sometimes
even up to 23 hours a day, leaving little time to inspect and maintain them. Often,
problems such as a burst hydraulic hose or faulty fittings in an engine
compartment may go undetected, but could lead to a fire. By introducing a
system of checks for downtime periods, mine operators can ensure vehicles are
adequately maintained while also increasing staff awareness of human errors
that may increase fire risk, such as leaving cleaning rags on hot surfaces.
specifications set out by OEMs
It’s important for mine site operators to respect and observe the specifications
set out by original equipment manufacturers. By ensuring fuel and oil lines and
hydraulics are installed and routed in accordance with the manufacturer’s
specifications, mine operators can prevent flammable fuels from coming into
contact with a hot surface in the event of a burst or leak.
Assessing fire risks carefully
so that hazards are not missed
Working in conjunction with a fire protection specialist and relevant
stakeholders, mine site managers need to undertake a thorough and documented
assessment of vehicle fire risks as part of a broader fire protection strategy.
A key objective of the exercise is to identify both common fire hazards and
less obvious ones including fuel, coolant or oil leaking onto hot exhaust
manifolds or turbochargers; engine or turbo failure; tyre pyrolysis; or hot
vehicle exhaust igniting exposed fuels. More discreet hazards may include areas
where combustible or flammable gases may build up or human error.
Installing suitable vehicle fire
Though the ability of vehicle fire suppression systems to reduce the
impact of fire in vehicles is well known, mine site operators are slow to
install them. Vehicle fire suppression systems are designed to suppress fires
occurring in high risk areas such as the engine and transmission compartments
and hydraulic areas of a vehicle.
These systems provide early detection and warning to the driver, allowing
them to safely evacuate while also suppressing the fire to help minimise damage
to the vehicle.
Wormald offers a range of proven and flexible
vehicle fire suppression systems to protect mobile plant, equipment and
vehicles across the mining industry. Using risk assessment processes that are
based on Australian Standard AS5062-2006, Wormald works with mine site operators
to determine the most suitable vehicle fire suppression system for their