Mobile equipment fires remain a major hazard in the mining industry. Bluefield have written articles previously on the subject (see here and here), and over the past 12 months we have conducted many more mobile equipment integrity inspections and fire prevention reviews across sites around Australia and overseas. We have captured learnings from these reviews that we believe are important to share.
Firstly, sites can prevent mobile equipment fires right back at the build/rebuild stage. During equipment rebuilds it is essential to ensure that the integrity hose routing, clamping, and fire prevention mechanisms such as hose lagging are maintained or upgraded to best practice standards. Sites need to continually identify the latest standards and apply them to their overhaul programs to keep ahead of this risk.
As an example of the need to stay abreast of best practice fire prevention standards, there have been incidents in recent years where fire prevention material was held onto hoses with heat shrink. Such a practice can become a problem in itself because it hides the deterioration of the fitting under the heat shrink, making it difficult to identify and correct defects.
In addition to proper installation, effective inspection and maintenance regimes are essential to manage the risk of mobile equipment fires. Hose clamping and routing practices that prevent rubbing, along with early detection of leaks, are key areas to start with to manage the numerous small defects that can lead to an incident.
Not only do defects have to be identified, but maintenance teams must also ensure that defects are raised in the CMMS so they can be fixed. Bluefield have written previously about improving maintenance execution standards (see here and here), but we’ve also learned that a review of the equipment and completed service sheets by the supervisor helps create the necessary awareness and operating discipline to ensure defects don’t go unmanaged.
We know from experience that supervisor review and sign off does generate the necessary defect reporting. During a mobile equipment audit conducted this year, one of our specialists viewed a random sample of completed service sheets. He found that where the supervisor had reviewed and signed off on the completed service sheets, 87% of the defects on the sheets made it into the site’s CMMS. Where the supervisor hadn’t reviewed and signed off on the completed service sheets, only 33% of defects were entered. Any of these missed defects are potentially a hazard to the mobile equipment operator.
Finally, we need to continue to discuss the risk of mobile equipment fires and make people aware of the standards and practices that cause them. While it’s fine to discuss and educate at a point in time, we have regularly seen examples where we return to site after a period away and find unacceptable standards on the equipment – some of which could lead to a fire – going unreported in the CMMS. Like all significant risks to a business and to the safety of people, it is essential to remain aware of this and discuss or educate the teams on a regular basis before the incidents occur.