We have previously written articles on mobile mining equipment fires and how they can be avoided (Read previous article here). While recently researching this subject further, 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 nine (9) items:
Site data analysis
Management commitment and leadership
Introduction of equipment to site standards
Fire risk review
Workmanship & inspection standards
From our experience, 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. Why do we need to do this? All companies already have maintenance and servicing regimes requiring 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 fires if inspection standards and subsequent corrective 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 about execution standards of current inspection checklists at the morning pre-shift meetings. If done positively, this will create awareness and knowledge of what standards are acceptable, generate equipment ownership, and 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 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 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, and do not rely on fire suppression. We have seen risk assessments focussed purely on fire suppression systems to control the risks identified. Consequently, standards to prevent fires have not been implemented. The suggestions from the DNRM bulletin align with our experience. MDG15 is also 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 enables the site to ensure 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. There is an onus on the inspector, mechanic, or electrician to act for any defect reducing 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 four (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 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. This resulted due to industry's inability to adequately maintain safe braking systems.