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Fresh warnings over heavy vehicle tyre explosions

fire, explosion

The NSW Resources Regulator has identified a lack of preparedness and appropriate response to heavy vehicle tyre fires, which carry the risk of explosion, at some mine operations.

Owing to their size and construction, heavy earth moving vehicle tyres are susceptible to unplanned explosions when exposed to heat. Debris from these explosions can be projected hundreds of metres and carry enough force to cause severe injury or death.

According to the Regulator, recent incidents show that the risk of an explosion is not understood or given appropriate concern.

In one instance, a fire broke out on a front-end loader at a coal mine.

“Regulator inspectors found the mine did not have a good working knowledge of the risks associated with heavy machinery tyres when exposed to heat and fire conditions,” the Regulator said.

“Because of this, the response to the incident involved staff entering an area that should have been declared an exclusion zone for worker safety.

“Multiple staff members including watercart operators entered the exclusion zone to take photos, monitor or conduct firefighting operations.”

Another incident involved a fire on a dump truck at a coal mine.

“The dangers of hot tyre fires were not initially considered within the emergency response, and watercarts tried to extinguish the fire in close proximity to the tyres in a forward-facing orientation,” the Regulator said.

“The mine operator had thermal imaging temperature monitoring available, but it was not used for throughout the response phase of the incident.

“A supervisor activated the external fire suppression on the truck’s bumper after approximately 42 minutes after the fire began, placing themselves in close proximity to the hot tyres.”

The Regulator stressed the importance of mine sites reviewing emergency plans and response procedures to cover the risks involved in firefighting heavy machinery tyre fires.

“Once the tyres are affected workers must withdraw and use more appropriate methods to extinguish fires, including setting up exclusion zones and allowing the fire to self-extinguish,” the Regulator said.

“The safety of workers and responders is paramount, and personnel should not be committed inside the exclusion zone.”

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