Tips & Advice

Keeping quarries fire safe

Fire protection should be top of mind for quarry site managers,? says Garry Kwok, the national technical manager for fire protection specialist Wormald.
?Inadequate or improper fire protection can expose staff to extreme dangers, lead to potential loss of life and assets and result in expensive downtime and possibly environmental impact. Adequate fire protection is not only a financial and regulatory necessity, but an ethical one.?
Quarry site supervisors and operations managers are advised to follow five key points to keep their quarries fire safe.
?It is important that people managing quarrying sites are fully aware of fire risks, aim to reduce these risks to an acceptable level and monitor and review these risks on an ongoing basis,? Kwok said. 
A comprehensive assessment of fire hazards is the first step in developing a fire protection plan and mitigating the risk of fire fatalities and damage. When it comes to identifying hazards, key considerations include the site?s size, structure, materials, equipment and number of staff. 
Fire hazards will differ for each quarry site. Common fire hazards may include mobile equipment and heavy vehicles, welding and cutting operations and storage of flammable and combustible liquids, including lubricating oil, grease and diesel and hydraulic fuel. 
Kwok has recommended engaging a fire protection expert. ?A fire protection specialist can conduct a detailed risk assessment to help reduce the chance of fire hazards being overlooked by accident,? he said.
In Australia, regulations for workplace health and safety vary across state and territory borders. 
Although the regulations around fire safety for mining sites can be complex and create confusion, it is vital that site supervisors understand and comply with appropriate regulation. 
A breach of regulation can not only put staff at risk but incur significant costs. 
Quarry site supervisors and operations managers must ensure appropriate fire protection equipment is installed and that the site complies with regulatory and ethical health and safety requirements. 
Although requirements will vary from one quarry site to another, fire protection equipment may include sprinkler systems, water spray deluge systems, water mist systems, foam systems, breathing apparatus, gas detection units, thermal imaging cameras, fire suppression systems and portable fire equipment. 
Heavy vehicles are also an important consideration.
?The size, fuel-carrying capacity and cost of heavy vehicles and equipment can post significant fire risks,? Kwok said. ?So it is essential that this machinery is fitted with a suitable fire suppression solution. Wormald?s vehicle fire suppression solutions aim to provide early detection and warning to allow extra time for the driver to safely evacuate, while at the same time quickly suppressing the fire to help minimise damage to the vehicle.? 
Kwok said in planning and designing a fire protection solution, consideration should also be given to the usability, logistics and financial investment involved.
?It is important that fire protection equipment can be accessed quickly and easily,? he said. ?If a fire breaks out, staff will have to act fast.? 
?Fire protection equipment is rendered useless if not in proper working order,? Kwok said.
?Site managers must keep on top of fire protection and ensure all fire protection equipment and systems are inspected and serviced regularly by a qualified fire protection specialist.?
Online tools, such as the recently launched Wormald Connect, can help site managers keep track of fire protection equipment maintenance and servicing. Wormald Connect is a web-based portal that gives customers 24-hour access to fire service calls and inspections data, allowing them to review servicing schedules and data online at any time.
Data can be stored on the portal for analysis or easily exported via an internet connection, to enable further analysis or record keeping. If required, inspection summaries can be filtered to suit a customer?s individual needs.
Training is a critical component of fire safety planning, especially in high risk industries such as quarrying. 
In the event of a fire, a correct and quick response can help to save lives and reduce damage. 
?While fire safety training should be tailored to the unique requirements of a quarry site, it is recommended that every site engages staff in confined space entry, breathing apparatus training, fire extinguisher training and lay-flat hose training,? Kwok said. ?Engaging a fire protection specialist can help to identify additional training requirements.?
Wormald has expertise in providing fire protection solutions for the mining and quarrying industry. 
This includes the design, installation, service and upgrade of fire protection systems plus consulting, technical support and engineering advice. 
Source: Wormald

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