AMSJ » Underground mine fire leaves worker with serious burns
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Underground mine fire leaves worker with serious burns

Cadia Hill Mine
Cadia Hill Mine

An employee suffered severe injuries after material handling equipment caught on fire at an underground operation.

One Newcrest Mining worker received serious burns when his LH621 Sandvik loader recently burst into flames at the Cadia Hill Mine, 262km west of the Sydney CBD.

The loader operator knew something was wrong when he saw the front-left tyre alight. He turned off the machine, activated the fire suppression system then exited the cabin. While evacuating he ran behind the machine, exposing himself to open flames that moved between the tyre, mudguard and ground.

“[He] sustained burn injuries when he was near the engine bay,” the New South Wales Resources Regulator said in a public statement. “The worker suffered burns to approximately 25 per cent of his body with severe burns to both hands, the back of an arm and shoulder.”

“Once clear of the loader the worker rolled on the ground to extinguish his clothing which had caught fire. The worker then ran to a nearby co-worker who called an emergency via radio and transported the worker to a refuge chamber [and] the worker was provided first aid, evacuated to the surface and transported to hospital for treatment.”

The employer decided it was safer to let the fire burn out due to explosive charges in the roof near the scene.

“It was not safe to fight the fire,” the regulator said. “All personnel were immediately directed to retreat to refuge chambers and were evacuated to the surface.”

The authority was still investigating the fire’s cause, loader’s design, fuel source, ignition point, potential equipment failures, maintenance, training, supervision, policies and procedures at the time of publication.

For now it recommends mine operators should:

  • ensure they have identified and assessed all hazards that may give rise to the risk of fire on vehicles and equipment used underground
  • assess the flammability of fluids used in the hydraulic and braking systems of heavy equipment that operates underground and potential ignition sources
  • ensure all hydraulic, braking and fuel systems on heavy equipment are inspected and maintained regularly to identify and prevent system failures that have the potential to produce high pressure leaks.

Workers should:

  • ensure they undertake prestart inspections of heavy equipment including assessing the condition of the hydraulic, braking and fuel systems with identified hazards reported
  • follow emergency response procedures when determining the most appropriate form of action to escape an underground fire safely.

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AMSJ April 2022