We have previously written articles on mobile mining equipment fires and how they can be avoided (Read previous article here). Most recently, while further researching this subject, I came across this DNRM bulletin from November 2016. It is a very comprehensive review of the DNRM database of Fixed and Mobile Equipment Fires on Surface Coal Mines. In this post, I want to discuss further their "Suggested fire reduction strategies" and take them to a deeper level as well as provide some suggested actions that can be immediately implemented.
The suggested fire reduction strategies from the DNRM include the following 9 items:
Site data analysis
Management commitment and leadership
Introduction of equipment to site standards
Fire risk review
Workmanship & inspection standards
From our experience, as we have discussed previously, the highest priority and current need is to improve the inspection standards. We are now seeing some companies implement additional inspections to specifically target fire risks, but why do we need to do this? All companies already have maintenance and servicing regimes that require people to look at these areas and identify fire risks, but they are not implemented adequately. This does not mean the other areas do not present opportunities but all will fail to eliminate these fires if the inspection standards and subsequent actions are not adequate.
Our suggested fire reduction actions, in order of priority, are:
Improve inspection standards by making the equipment condition visible. Implement a discussion topic and share photos around the execution standards of current inspection checklists at the morning pre-shift meetings. If done positively, this will ensure that the awareness of what standards are acceptable are known, generate equipment ownership, and it will also help to improve general equipment reliability. Acceptable standards for leaks, hose condition, electrical cable condition, lagging condition, and integrity all need to be raised in our industry. In addition to this, it is essential that all defects identified are adequately actioned in the CMMS/ERP system. Any defect written on a service sheet should have a subsequent notification/work order number noted, adjacent to the defect so that the site is certain all defects have been actioned and nothing gets missed.
Ensure the equipment risk assessment considers fire prevention standards as a control, not just fire suppression. We have seen risk assessments that have focussed purely on fire suppression systems to control the risks identified and consequentially have not implemented any standards to prevent the fires. The suggestions from the DNRM bulletin align with our experience but also MDG15 is a good source of standards for preventing electrical fires on mobile equipment.
The equipment specifications need to be documented and include the aspects of fire prevention as part of this specification. We have been to sites where the specification was not documented for some types of equipment and over time the fire prevention items were removed and not replaced. Also, hire equipment and contractor equipment should include fire prevention equipment. Clearly documenting the specification then enables the site to ensure the documented maintenance strategies and checklists are designed to maintain the integrity of the fire prevention components.
Ensure the documented maintenance strategies (tactics/PM checklists) reflect the conditions as specified in the equipment specification. These PM documents should be clear about what conditions are acceptable but also there is an onus on the inspector, mechanic or electrician to take action for any defect that can reduce the effectiveness of the fire prevention equipment.
While the other suggested strategies from the DNRM also have merit and the DNRM has a large database of cases to study, the above 4 are the key actions for preventing ignition and will deliver the required improvements.
Bluefield welcomes feedback from mining equipment operators on this subject. We believe that if our industry does not get this right, through quality practical maintenance practices, then we may end up with another regulation such as Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 66 for braking systems, which resulted due to our inability to adequately maintain safe braking systems.