Equipment Fires Management /

Background

Mobile equipment fires occur regularly in the mining and resources industry and there are clear health and safety drivers to improve the understanding and application of fire prevention and mitigation controls.   

The EMESRT Design Philosophy 4 (DP-4) – Fire was published in 2007 and provides visual operational scenario information for the designers of mobile equipment and fire detection and suppression systems.  It has this objective: to prevent harm related to equipment fires to as low as reasonably practical, including consideration in design for foreseeable human error.

In 2018 EMESRT Advisory Group (EAG) members committed to facilitating an industry project to improve mobile equipment fire management. This decision was based on: 

  • Present significant fatality risks for operators, maintainers and emergency responders
  • Can be catastrophic in underground operations 
  • Incur considerable direct and indirect costs, e.g., equipment repair or replacement, disruption to operations, litigation, increases in insurance premiums, etc
  • Are formally reported in most mining jurisdictions and event patterns and their prevalence has been extensively analysed and reviewed
  • Regulators now expect that mine operators can improve performance
  • The range and complex interdependency of the business inputs necessary for effective and reliable fire prevention and mitigation controls

In 2019, this EMESRT Project was scoped and developed at two industry workshops, using the EMESRT Control Framework (CFw) approach. Experienced and well qualified participants from both member and nonmember companies confirmed six aspirational Required Operating States (ROS) as the minimum set necessary for consistently safe and productive mining operations, without significant mobile equipment fire events: 

  • ROS-EF-01: Mobile plant design prevents interactions between flammable materials, fuel and ignition sources
  • ROS-EF-02: Mobile plant is maintained to a schedule and to OEM standards. Specific fire prevention and mitigation checks are part of the maintenance process. There are no early operational failures
  • ROS-EF-03: Mobile plant is operated productively and safely within operating design limits, avoiding fire or potential fire incidents
  • ROS-EF-04: Local response to fires or potential fires on mobile equipment is effective with early detection and prudent local response
  • ROS-EF-05: Maintenance activities on or around mobile equipment do not cause fires
  • ROS-EF-09: Effective emergency response, beyond local response, limits fire losses

Based on actual fire incidents, participants considered adequacy of the specific business inputs intended to prevent or mitigate compromise to relevant Required Operating States.  This work identified these industry level opportunities:

  • Using fire triangle logic and working with multiple stakeholders, there are significant opportunities to design future mobile equipment that has increased fire resistance and has adequate and integrated fire detection and suppression systems
  • Using fire triangle logic and working with multiple stakeholders, there are opportunities to increase the fire resistance of existing mobile equipment and improve fire detection and suppression systems
  • Producing mine operator information about the fire potential and required controls for new technology mobile equipment, e.g., battery, fuel cell power sources, etc
  • Improving minimum standards for mobile equipment fire risk analysis, e.g., ensuring that assessment assumptions and minimum standard maintenance information is provided for mine operators
  • Improving the detection and alerting for fire, or potential fire situations, on mobile equipment
  • Developing industry validated content for operational site reviews of the business inputs that prevent or mitigate mobile equipment fires, e.g., operating, maintenance, and emergency response practices

Project progress

During 2020, EMESRT coordinated a working group to develop and deliver a work plan to realise these industry level opportunities.  The Equipment Fires Working Group, made up of 32 experienced people representing 17 organisations, meet monthly to review work plan progress. 

The CFw was based on industry information, guidance, operation experience and know-how and included review of:

  • EMESRT Design Philosophy 4 – Fire
  • Regulator information from multiple jurisdictions – incident reports, bulletins, publications analysis, position papers, etc
  • Operating site, company and industry documents
  • Research and technical information, e.g., incident taxonomies
  • Relevant Standards and Guidelines, e.g., ISO 19296 Mining – Mobile machines working underground – Machine Safety First edition 2018-11

In 2021, this industry project expects to: 

  • Continue to collaborate, sort and share information at an industry level on:
  • Equipment design
  • Good maintenance practices
  • Detection and suppression system design, installation and maintenance
  • Refine the draft industry self-review tool
  • Comprehensive good practice resource to adapt for internal company use
  • Use to baseline and then improve performance
  • Confirm industry innovation projects and engagement schedule
  • Formally launch the Equipment Fires Management Knowledge Hub – timing pivots on adequate content and additional navigation aids
  • Develop project management templates for operating sites (key Knowledge Hub content)

Next steps

  • Review and update DP-4: Mobile Equipment Fires Management
  • Continue to collaborate, sort and share information at an industry level on:
    • Equipment design
    • Good maintenance practices
    • Detection and suppression system design, installation and maintenance
  • Refine the draft industry self-review tool
    • Comprehensive good practice resource to adapt for internal company use
    • Use to baseline and then improve performance
  • Confirm industry innovation projects and engagement schedule
  • Formally launch the Equipment Fires Management Knowledge Hub – timing pivots on adequate content and additional navigation aids
  • Develop project management templates for operating sites (key Knowledge Hub content)