Fire is a serious hazard in underground mines and outbreak conflagration can be extremely dangerous because of the following reasons:
As an employer, you have a duty of care to provide and maintain a safe working environment for your employees and equip them with the necessary fire safety training. In fact, the prevention of fires in underground mines should be your top priority since an accident can result in smoke inhalation, asphyxiation, serious or deadly burns, and even explosions. Thus, you must have a comprehensive mining fire protection plan.
Here is a list of considerations you need to take while preparing a mining fire protection plan.
A comprehensive risk assessment is extremely important as it allows you to identify the relevant risks and create a plan that helps to mitigate those risks. Moreover, risk assessment also help in prioritising risks and determining where you need to place the most effort in prevention and control.
Risk assessment primarily encompasses the potential hazards listed below.
Anything that can burn is potential fuel for a fire or even an explosion. Some of the most common fuels present in mines include:
You need to consider all the factors that can ignite a fire or result in an explosion. A source of ignition is anything that can get hot enough to ignite a substance or material in the underground mine. Some sources of heat may include:
The main source of oxygen for a fire is generally the air that is present in the mine. Mines typically have a ready oxygen supply as the mine’s ventilation system continuously draws air from around the mine. Other sources of oxygen that you need to consider when carrying out risk assessment include:
Once you have carried out a comprehensive risk assessment, you should provide fire safety training to all your employees on how to manage and mitigate these risks.
The risks of a fire multiply as underground mines become wider and deeper. In such cases, building techniques and non-flammable building material are imperative in your fire safety plan.
It is extremely important for you to have airtight fire gates that are made with non-flammable material and equipped with penetration seals for cables, pipes, etc. Moreover, ventilation ducts that pass through the different partitions of the underground mine should also be made of non-flammable material.
Ventilation in underground mines plays a significant role in fire prevention. Noxious fumes spread quickly and they are often the biggest risk in an underground mine fire.
The electrical installations used in an underground mine for power supply or for the control of the ventilation system are highly likely to cause a fire. Thus, the location of electrical installations and the material of the electrical equipment must be selected with the utmost care. Ideally, you should use fire-resistant halogen-free cables that do not contain PVC.