In September 2018, three mobile equipment fires were reported in which fire suppression systems failed. One miner died from severe burns; another was injured.
To avert future injuries, MSHA quickly identified all mobile equipment with fire suppression systems being used in U.S. mines – a total of 4,288 vehicles. By mid-January, each piece of equipment had been inspected for proper installation and functioning of the suppression system. Mine operators and miners were also advised of best practices.
MSHA reminds mine operators that they are responsible for ensuring that adequate and effective fire protection equipment, which includes fire suppression systems, is provided. It’s also the responsibility of mine operators and miners to ensure that fire hazards on surface vehicles are adequately eliminated and/or mitigated.
Fully compliant systems adhere to the requirements in National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 17 and 17A (Standards for Dry and Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems), the system manufacturer’s recommendations, as well as 30 CFR.
MSHA wants operators to contact manufacturers when necessary and check their fire suppression systems to ensure they will operate in case of a fire.
If a fire does ignite, it is imperative that miners have a means to dismount equipment quickly and safely. MSHA encourages manufacturers of surface vehicles, as well as mine operators, to develop and install evacuation methods that allow a miner to stay away from areas of the vehicle where, historically, fires have started. Such areas include the engine and battery compartments and hydraulic hoses.
Adequate task training must be performed so equipment operators and mechanics will be able to maintain equipment, respond correctly to alarms, use fire suppression systems properly, and safely dismount equipment in an emergency. Mine operators should provide refresher training as needed.