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Fires accounted for 25 per cent of all notifiable incidents on mechanical plant reported by underground metalliferous and extractive mines in the five years to 2012.
Fires accounted for 25 per cent of all notifiable incidents on mechanical plant reported by underground metalliferous and extractive mines in the five years to 2012.

Reducing the risk of vehicle fires on quarry sites

As an industry that relies heavily on transportable equipment and mobile plant for daily operations, it is recommended that quarry operators take appropriate steps to manage the risk of vehicle fires.

The risk of fire in mobile plant can be high. According to a report published by New South Wales Mine Safety, fires accounted for approximately 25 per cent of all notifiable incidents on mechanical plant reported by underground metalliferous and extractive mines in the five years to 2012. Of those, mobile plant fires accounted for 76 per cent of reported incidents.

A vehicle fire can have serious and fatal consequences. The fire and products of combustion may put the driver and site staff at risk of smoke inhalation, serious or fatal burns, asphyxiation or entrapment. It may also have consequences such as explosions and render a vehicle useless until it is repaired, resulting in significant downtime costs.


When it comes to managing fire risks, quarry site managers are urged to undertake a documented risk assessment in conjunction with a fire protection specialist and those with knowledge of the site’s production, engineering, maintenance and ventilation systems.

This assessment should include all mobile plant on site to identify potential fire hazards. All fuel, lubrication and hydraulic systems are potential fuel sources of fire in mobile equipment. Common risks may include fuel, coolant or oil leaking onto hot exhaust manifolds or turbochargers, engine or turbo failure, tyre pyrolysis, or hot vehicle exhaust igniting exposed fuels. It is also important to review the potential hazards of fuel containers.

Once mobile plant fire hazards have been identified, controls should be introduced to help prevent the outbreak of fire and minimise the effects of a fire incident. Working with a fire protection specialist can help to develop a comprehensive fire protection solution, comprising fire protection equipment, maintenance programs and staff training protocols.

Wormald recommends that all mobile plant are fitted with vehicle fire suppression systems, which are designed to suppress fires which occur in high risk areas such as the engine and transmission compartments and hydraulic areas.


Vehicle fire suppression systems can significantly reduce the impact of fire in vehicles, yet many quarry operators are slow to install these systems. By providing early detection and warning, the systems may allow the driver extra time to safely evacuate while also suppressing the fire to help minimise damage to the vehicle.

It is important to establish appropriate fire safety processes for mobile plant, including:

  • A system of checks to ensure vehicles are frequently and adequately maintained. This includes ensuring run-up procedures are completed before existing equipment returns to service. If tyres have caught fire or pyrolysis is suspected, vehicles should be parked in an isolated and monitored location for 24 hours.
  • Identifying areas where fuel sources may not be obvious, such as areas where combustible or flammable dust or gases can accumulate, and raising staff awareness of simple mistakes that may increase fire risk, eg leaving cleaning cloths on hot surfaces.

Checking that fuel and oil lines and hydraulics are installed to the specifications laid out by the original equipment manufacturer and routed so that, in the event of a burst or leak, flammable fuels cannot contact a hot surface. Where routing away from hot surfaces is not possible, all fuel lines should be securely clamped and shielded.

Ensuring drivers are trained to respond appropriately in the event of a mobile plant fire incident.

Wormald offers a range of fire safety training programs and vehicle fire suppression systems.


Steve Oxley is the vehicle systems national product manager for Wormald Australia.


1.  New South Wales Mine Safety, Department of Trade & Investment. Fires on mechanical plant at underground metalliferous mines (2008 – 2012): Incident Analysis. November 2012.


Thursday, 24 January, 2019 02:51am
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