Mineral mines and quarries have been recommended to have site senior executives develop a structural integrity management plan in consultation with a suitably qualified person to combat increasing incidents of structural integrity failure.
The recommendation comes from the Resources Safety and Health Queensland (RSHQ), after a series of incidents with the potential to cause serious harm.
Since 2011 there have been 129 reported incidents involving the failure of structures in the mineral mines and quarries sector, with 19 of those occurring in the last 12 months.
These structural failures have resulted in uncontrolled movements and falls of objects, persons and in some circumstances, whole structures.
According to the RSHQ a lack in detection of affected equipment and potential hazards has been then cause for the affected sites’ failure of structural integrity.
“A common issue has been the failure to identify ‘loss of structural integrity’ as a hazard and to implement effective controls,” reported the RSHQ.
“Sites with structures must ensure they have identified the failure of those structures as a hazard. Controls should be based on the likelihood and potential consequences of damage to mechanisms and failure modes of the structures on site.”
The RSHQ listed the following as additional failure modes of structures;
- Collapse and sudden failure,
- Partial collapse and instability,
- Failure of individual sections or members,
- Permanent deformation (e.g. buckling and bending) of sections or members,
- Cracking in members and weldments,
- Failure of connections and fasteners, and;
- Spalling and cracking failures on concrete.
The RSHQ recommends that sites engage competent persons to assist them in first establishing a baseline audit of their structures.
The results of the audit should be used to identify the risk of any defects found, and repairs prioritised accordingly, from items requiring immediate attention to items requiring attention in several years.
Management plans can then be created to manage structures as part of the site’s preventative maintenance strategy.
Typical industry strategies for structures can involve periodic in-house and external third-party inspections, with the interval of these inspections set based on likely damage and failure mechanisms and the associated level of risk.