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Lightning strikes on vehicles highlighted in mine safety bulletin

lightning strikes rubber tyres vehicles
Mines should review procedures with lightning strikes and rubber vehicles

The Queensland Department of Natural Resources Mines and Energy has recently hi-lighted the risks to operators from lightning strikes to rubber tyred vehicles. The Department have sought to debunk the myth that during lightning storms, heavy, rubber-tyred vehicles can be considered a place of safety.

The Department said that “a number of incidents have occurred on Australian minesites where lightning has struck rubber-tyred vehicles causing tyres to explode, demonstrating the enormous potential for significant harm when this occurs.”
An incident at a Western Australian mine in January 2018, when an autonomous truck was stuck by lightning and the position 2 (front right) tyre exploded, resulted in extensive damage to the upper structure of the truck, including the cab. Significant Incident Report No. 260, issued from the Western Australian Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, contains more information.
In another incident that occurred at a mine in NSW in 2008 , a parked rear dump truck was struck by lightning. This resulted in two tyres exploding (position 1 and 3) on the driver’s side of the truck, causing extensive damage to the truck and other equipment. Debris was thrown up to 275 m from the truck. A Safety Alert issued by the NSW Mine Safety Operations Branch was issued regarding this incident.

The two incidents above indicate the risks to operators in heavy, rubber-tyred vehicles from pyrolysis due to lightning strikes. Whenever excess heat is developed in or applied to a tyre, it can initiate pyrolysis, (the decomposition of a substance by heat), within the tyre. This can cause a build-up of flammable gases and pressure within the tyre, which may rupture or explode. Further information can be found in Safety Bulletin 47 (Tyre fires, pyrolysis and explosions) available on the DNRME website.

DNRME recommendations to mines on lightning strikes and rubber tyred vehicles

The Department said that with the storm season now on us in Queensland:
  • Mines should review their severe weather or lightning TARPS to take into account the risk to coal mine workers operating heavy rubber tyred vehicles during lightning storms.
  • Clearly, a heavy rubber tyred vehicle cannot be considered as a place of safety during a lightning storm, and care must be taken where these vehicles are parked during a lightning storm so as not to create a hazard for buildings or structures.
  • Mines Inspectors will be auditing mines’ severe weather and lightning procedures and TARPS during routine inspections.

Read more on reported lightning strikes and related incidents at Australasian Mine Safety Journal

Read more Mining Safety News

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