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Why high pressure pipes can be dangerous on a mine

high pressure pipe

Safe to Work takes a look at the safety incidents that occurred in the NSW mining industry in the month of April.


A service crew at an underground metals mine was sent to unblock an air header, which is used to power pneumatic drills and material handling equipment. The crew isolated the services before starting work on the pipe, then accessed a dropper and opened it. Noting that nothing came from the dropper, the crew assumed that the residual pressure in the machine had dissipated. The crew then began to take the header off using spanners.

As the pipe loosened, it suddenly ejected forcefully. The poly pipe whipped around and hit one of the service crew, inflicting a deep laceration on the cheek and a shoulder injury.

Following the incident, the NSW Resources Regulator emphasised the need for effective isolation and energy dissipation practices when working with high pressure air systems.

“Where stored pressure can remain in a circuit (such as check valves and gate valves), appropriate methods must be available to safely dissipate pressure,” the regulator said.

“Mine operators’ risk assessments on pressure systems must identify and provide effective controls for areas of trapped pressure.”

Hoses have been known to cause similar injuries on mine sites.


A haul truck at an open cut coal mine was going around a grader on the side of a roadway, which required crossing onto the opposite side of the road. Instead of returning to the correct side of the road on passing the grader, the haul truck continued to the other side of the centre bund onto the wrong side of the road. The truck passed close to two light vehicles travelling in the opposite direction. Fortunately, no collision occurred.

Following a recent awareness campaign on vehicle interactions, the NSW Resources Regulator published a video that can be used for training purposes and toolbox talks to help vehicle operators avoid collisions.


A front-end loader and road-going semi-tipper were loading crushed stone at an open cut industrial minerals mine. The semi-tipper parked behind the loader without communicating. When the loader reversed, the operator failed to notice the semi-tipper behind him and the counterweight made contact with the truck body, damaging the guards.

“To achieve positive communication, a clear direct message must be given,” the regulator said. “Additionally, the person receiving the message must actively reply with a clear understanding of the message.”

“Supervisors should be continually monitoring positive communication compliance during every radio call on their shift.

“Higher order controls such as equipment segregation and proximity awareness systems should be implemented before positive communications are considered [as a method of risk management].”

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