Industry Safety Bulletin, News, Safety events and incidents, Surface operations

Storm season a risk for miners


Resources Safety and Health Queensland is warning mine sites to prepare for storm season, which poses a safety risk for mine workers.

Storm season runs from October to the end of April, creating hazards which need to be managed by mine operators.

The Regulator commissioned an expert report into hazards associated with using vehicles during lightning conditions.

The report identified the following as high risk:

  • Exposure to high voltage while in close quarters to – but outside of – vehicles (flashover injury, touch and step potential voltage)
  • Exposure to high voltage while in an open area (direct strike, step potential, side flash)
  • Tyre rupture or explosion via pyrolysis (projectiles, shockwaves, loss of vehicle control).

Moderate risks were identified as:

  • Exposure to high voltage via UHF wiring or other conducting surfaces whilst inside vehicle (touch voltage)
  • Exposure to high voltage while sitting in cabin (direct strike, touch voltage, side flash).
Vehicle tyres can explode when struck by lighting. Image:RSHQ.
Vehicle tyres can explode when struck by lighting. Image:RSHQ

Certain site facilities can also present a hazard in a storm in the right circumstances.

RSHQ chief operating officer Rob Djukic said there have been issues in previous years with fabric building structures like igloos that aren’t capable of withstanding loads.

“They should never be considered a place of safety during severe weather events,” Djukic said.

“Those structures need regular maintenance, but don’t just stop there. Make sure you’re assessing all site facilities deemed to be places of safety during severe weather events.”

Storm damage to a mine structure. Image:RSHQ

According to the Regulator, the safest way to eliminate lightning hazards is to cease activities when lightning is detected within close proximity to a work site.

The Regulator also recommended that vehicles should be driven to a designated safe lay-down area, operators of vehicles should be transported to a safe shelter away from the equipment, and workers should not return to work until an ‘all clear’ has been given.

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