QLD inspectorate urges coal miners to check FRAS equipment

The Queensland mines inspectorate has urged coal mines to check FRAS equipment. Image: Resources Safety and Health Queensland.

Queensland’s chief inspectorate of coal mines is calling on site executives to audit fire resistant anti-static (FRAS) equipment after two products failed to meet fire and electrical resistance standards.

This follows a recall on Powaflex FRAS hoses during June, that prompted the mines inspectorate to test the antistatic properties of all FRAS rated materials.

The inspectorate discovered that the materials used to make FRAS rated hoses have the potential for material to build up to a sufficient charge that can lead to a spark.

It was recommended that site managers audit all equipment required to be FRAS rated and all equipment supplied as required by legislation and take appropriate steps to confirm the accuracy and completeness of the test results.

“Mines inspectorate testing identified that even anti-static equipment has the potential to store a static charge if the material is isolated from earth,” the chief inspectorate of coal mines stated.

“This is exacerbated if the material has metallic components as part of the construction.

“If materials purported to be FRAS do not meet the prescribed standards, this can present an unacceptable level of risk in underground coal mining operations.”

Queensland coal mines are urged to put in place permanent measures, such as regular testing and inspections for all FRAS equipment, to ensure FRAS properties are maintained.

The inspectorate has also advised that FRAS rated materials are adequately earthed to ensure a static build-up cannot occur.

Using equipment with FRAS materials is critical in reducing the risk of underground fires in coal mines.

The Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2017 prescribes that FRAS material must be used for equipment including belt conveyors, brattice line, temporary stopping, separation stopping and ventilation ducting.

The New South Wales Resources Regulator has also warned underground miners about the hazards of using anti-static materials due to their ability to cause sparking and potential to ignite methane gas.

According to the Resources Regulator materials including rubber, polyurethane, PVC, polyethylene, polypropylene and polyester, which are commonly used in products for underground polyurethane, can store an electrical charge.

“These products, when subjected to friction, may accumulate a static charge that can cause spark ignition of methane gas,” The Resources Regulator stated.

Friction in an underground environment can occur through air movement from items including ventilation fans and compressed air line scraper blades and skirting rubbers.

Miner operators of underground coal mines are recommended to adopt adequate control measures for products subject to the accumulation of static charges.

Products that use materials with surface resistivity less than 300MΩ (ohms) should include a strategy to prevent static charge accumulation, such as secure mounting to an earth bonded structure.

Products using anti-static materials that have a surface resistivity higher than 300MΩ (ohms) with metallic components connected should also a means to prevent static build-up.

Procedures should also be in place to ensure products are installed with the manufacturer’s directions in mind to discharge static, and that appropriate measures are continually maintained.

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