Fire hazard types
Examples of the more common or dangerous fire hazard types are discussed here. This is not an exhaustive list and mining operators should think in terms of their particular circumstances.
A summation of the many fire hazards present can be found in Prevention of fires in underground mines - guideline. The hazards identified are referenced to underground mines but are applicable to surface operations.
Fuel and ignition sources
A mobile equipment fleet often includes a wide range of complex and specialist equipment. Through design and the purpose of the equipment, fuel and ignition sources may be close to each other.
Wear and tear on equipment from long working hours, and the off-road and harsh working conditions mean that mobile equipment fires are one of the more common fire hazards on mines.
The causes of fire are many but simple risk management approaches can reduce the incidence of fire in a mobile equipment fleet.
Fire suppression systems and extinguishment equipment
Fire suppression equipment and fire fighting equipment (e.g. extinguishers) may assist in case of a fire.
AS 5062: Fire protection for mobile and transportable equipment is available for purchase through Standards Australia. The standard specifies the fire risk management process for mobile and transportable equipment, (including vehicles). As well as the design, installation, commissioning, maintenance and listing requirements for engineered and pre-engineered fire protection systems installed on mobile and transportable equipment. Includes performance testing for pre-engineered foam water spray suppression systems.
Underground diesel units
Diesel units in the underground environment have fire suppression system requirements under the Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995.
Refer to r.10.59 of the Mines Safety and Inspection Regulations 1995.
The fire risk for equipment is strongly influenced by its maintenance record, and compliance with maintenance systems is vital. Maintenance systems should be in place to ensure:
- mobile and fixed plant is maintained according to the recommendations of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM)
- any defects are recorded and promptly repaired.
The maintenance system should also store and manage maintenance information, plan maintenance inspections, and servicing and report on equipment and maintenance performance.
Tyre fires involve the tyre rubber catching fire (combusting) directly. This is usually initiated by:
- fire in the engine, wheel motor or brake that spreads to the tyre
- fire external to the vehicle (e.g. brush fire, ground shale fire) that spreads to the tyre
- friction from rubber on rubber contact that can happen when a tyre deflates or separates
- friction from rubber on steel contact (e.g. a wheel or rim spinning inside a flat tyre)
- heat generated by an explosion.
To learn more about tyre safety and preventing tyre fires, visit Guidance about tyre management
The Tyre safety for earth-moving machinery on Western Australia mining operations - guideline will be available to assist in management, operation and maintenance of a rubber-tyred heavy vehicle fleet.
Electrical fires and fires through hot works
Below is the list of links that you may find useful.
Explosives and dangerous goods fires
You can search for the safety alerts released by the Chief Dangerous Goods Officer, as well as information on the use, storage, handling, transport and disposal of explosives and other dangerous goods, in the Publications and resources area below and download them as a PDF.
You can search for the safety performance reports and posters in the Safety statistics area and download them as a PDF.
Prevention of fires is priority
The underground working environment has many of the same fire hazards that are present on surface. However the nature of the working environment is confined, the ability to evacuate quickly is restricted, and ventilation is by mechanical means with the potential for smoke and noxious fumes to not dissipate or be removed quickly enough.
The prevention is a priority for underground mines as fires can lead to:
- smoke inhalation
- serious or fatal burns
- other serious consequences such as explosions.
There is the potential in underground mines for an irrespirable atmosphere to be generated as a result of fire.
This guideline provides information on the management and use of refuge chambers designed to protect people from exposure to irrespirable atmospheres underground during an emergency.
In many areas of Western Australia, bush fires can be a seasonal or year-round hazard. For remote mine sites or exploration camps away from regional centres or near communities with little infrastructure, these external threats can be challenging. There is the risk of loss of services and infrastructure, loss of production and a threat to lives.
Apart from reducing the potential for site personnel to accidentally start a bush fire, control measures are about responding to the fire. An emergency plan is required, including how the site might be evacuated should the need arise.
To keep up to date with the latest information, visit the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.
For sites in the northern parts of Australia, the North Australian Fire Information website provides a information on fires, including fire spread and conditions, as well as a library of resources.
The Bureau of Meteorology WA Warnings Summary provides fire warnings.
Other resources such as Shire offices, land owners and nearby operations can provide local information (e.g. burn offs).
Further information: A total fire ban can be declared due to extreme weather conditions or when widespread fires are stretching firefighting resources. The ban includes all open air fires for the purpose of cooking or camping, in addition to incinerators, welding, grinding, soldering or gas cutting activities. Exemptions can be applied for.
For more information on total fire bans and exemptions, visit the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.