MSHA launches initiative to prevent fire suppression system hazards

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is launching a fire suppression system initiative after a miner was burned from a fire which occurred in the rock truck he was operating. The victim was transported to a hospital and a burn centre for treatment but died from his injuries five days later. 

On 7 September, the miner was hauling a spoil material from the pit to the dump site. A bulldozer operator saw a fire near the engine compartment and operator’s cab and radioed the miner in the truck. The miner stopped the truck and evacuated but received burns as he travelled down the stairs which are beside the engine compartment.

As part of the investigation, MSHA checked the manually-activated fire suppression system, which based on statements, did not function when activated.

A couple of weeks later two more fires occurred. One of the fires took place at the same mine on another rock truck of the same make and model. No one was injured, but statements reveal the manually-activated fire suppression system did not function when activated.

A non-injury fire also occurred on a hydraulic shovel. The automatic fire suppression system activated, but it did not extinguish the fire.

MSHA says mine operators are responsible for ensuring that adequate and effective fire protection equipment is provided. Mine operators and miners must ensure that fire hazards on surface vehicles are adequately eliminated and/or mitigated.

The administration’s personnel will look at fire suppression systems on these types of vehicles and check critical portions of fire suppression systems. They will also discuss key requirements of proper installation and maintenance of these systems.

“Fully compliant systems adhere to the requirements in National Fire Protection Association 17 and 17A (Standards for Dry and Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems), the system manufacturer’s recommendations, as well as 30 CFR,” MSHA adds.

MSHA wants operators to contact manufacturers when necessary and check their fire suppression systems to ensure they will operate in the event of a fire.

Miners must have the means to dismount equipment quickly and safely if a fire does ignite. The administration encourages manufacturers of surface vehicles and mine operators to develop and install evacuation methods that allow miners to stay away from areas of the vehicle where fires have started in the past. These areas include the engine and battery compartments and hydraulic hoses.

MSHA’s website includes a PowerPoint presentation and checklist to help miners evaluate fire suppression systems. Thorough pre-operational examinations and required maintenance are essential to finding and removing fire hazards related to combustible fluids, brake systems, electrical cables and connections, and other materials.

Also, adequate task training must be carried out, so equipment operators and mechanics will be able to maintain equipment, respond correctly to alarms, use fire suppression systems properly and safely evacuate equipment in emergencies. Mine operators should also provide refresher training as needed.



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