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Excavator engine catches fire after cleaning mishap

fire, excavator

Safe to Work takes a look at two recent safety incidents that occurred on NSW coal mines, including an excavator fire and steering failure on a haul truck.

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When an excavator operator noticed excess oil building up on top of the stairs and engine compartment of the machine, they contacted the clean-up crew. These workers identified the cause of the oil spill as a failed hose.

In order to remove the oil, the workers applied degreaser on the affected areas. However, the degreaser dripped through the floor to the engine room below. When the degreaser came into contact with a hot exhaust manifold, it ignited.

Workers evacuated the vehicle and triggered the fire suppression system. No injuries were reported.

Following the incident, the NSW Resources Regulator offered words of advice.

“Where products such as cleaners and degreasers are used near hot engine components, the ignition point should be assessed and compared with surface temperatures to manage the risk of fires,” the regulator said.

“When selecting products, higher ignition point products should be used.”

The regulator recommended reviewing fire prevention standards for mobile and transportable equipment AS 5062:2022, and updating site systems and procedures accordingly.

Thermal lagging is another means of fire safety. This entails wrapping engine components in lagging to prevent flammable substances from coming into contact with hot surfaces.

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In a separate incident, a haul truck collided head-on with the wall of a decline at an underground coal mine. The collision occurred when the steering function failed. Fortunately, the operator was uninjured.

Subsequent investigation identified fluid loss from a damaged hydraulic hose as the cause of the failure.

“Safety critical systems such as braking and steering systems should be inspected, maintained and tested in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations,” the regulator said.

“Mine operators must develop and adhere to strict inspection and maintenance standards and practices to prevent loss of fluid due to loose fittings or damaged hoses.

“Operators should review their maintenance procedures to ensure commissioning checks are carried out by competent people before plant is returned to service as fit-for-purpose.”

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