Forum fires safety plan

LAST week’s Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA underground fire forum has been heralded as a starting point for changes in the mining industry.

Participants at the Kalgoorlie forum developed a set of draft guidelines to prevent underground fires.

These guidelines, which address electrical, hydraulic and fuel spill causes, as well as manufacturing innovations such as water-cooled manifolds, will ultimately go to the Mines Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board.

Up to 100 underground fires related to mining operations have been reported annually in WA over the past five years, according to CME executive officer, safety and health, Mark Stirling.

Many of these have been considered minor, such as ashtrays or rags catching alight, and have been extinguished by small fire extinguishers.

However any fire in such a confined environment is potentially of far worse consequence than one in an open arena, Mr Stirling said.

Apart from the human risk factor, fires can cause lost production time and a reduction in available production areas. A shaft fire in an underground gold mining operation in South Africa this week is reported to have reduced that shaft’s production by 60 per cent.

Mr Stirling said 46 participants – equipment manufacturers, maintenance managers, and health and safety personnel – attended last week’s forum.

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