Reduction of Fire Hazards on Large Mining Equipment
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Reduction of Fire Hazards on Large Mining Equipment

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    Analysis of mining equipment fires from 1990 through 1999 reveals that there were 340 large mining equipment fires, resulting in 72 injuries and five fatalities. Many of the fires resulted in the loss of equipment and all posed potential or real risks to the operator. In 97 cases, the fires raged out of control due to engine shut­off failure, even upon activation of the machine fire suppression system, due to the spraying of pressurized hydraulic flu­id and fuel onto hot engine surfaces. In other cases, even after engine shutoff, the fires re-ignited, fueled by the contin­ued flow of flammable fluids remaining in the lines onto the hot engine surfaces. In many of the fires, flammable vapors evolved and penetrated the cab, violently igniting, forcing the operator to exit under very hazardous conditions. The use of emergency evacuation lines in the fuel and hydraulic fluid systems, and methods to reduce or prevent the spraying of pressurized fluids onto hot engine surfaces would greatly improve the chances of successfully suppressing large mining equipment fires. In addition, the use of systems for preventing the ignition of flammable vapors inside the cab, and detecting and suppressing fires originat­ing in the cab, would greatly enhance operator safety. The National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently conducted experiments on meth­ods to reduce the fire hazards associated with large mining equipment. These experiments evaluated the use of cab inerting systems to prevent the ignition of flammable vapors inside the cab and sup­press fires originating in the cab, while maintaining a breathable atmosphere for the operator to bring the equipment to a stop and safely exit the cab.
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