OHS Code Explanation Guide

Published Date: July 01, 2009
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Part 36 Mining

Section 548 Fire precautions

Wherever possible, employers must reduce the potential for fire by reducing the quantity of flammable materials present and by using fire-resistant or non-flammable materials.

Combustible materials include items such as oily rags, plastic, paper, wood and coal dust. These materials can be easily ignited by an ignition source and can rapidly grow into an uncontrollable fire. Good housekeeping  minimizes the potential for such a fire to occur.

This section lists several specific precautions appropriate for preventing fires and explosions in underground coal mines.  However, this section does not imply that fire and explosion hazards are limited to the items in the list. Employers and workers are responsible for being constantly on the lookout for these and any other hazards.

One hazard specifically addressed in subsections (5) to (7) is that of flammable hydraulic fluids which can leak onto hot surfaces and ignite. This hazard can be mitigated by using fire resistant hydraulic fluids. However, the use of some of these requires qualification based on practical experience with their use in Alberta’s harsh winter conditions. The use of fire resistant fluids (FRFs) in mobile diesel equipment underground has proven problematic in very cold weather and has led to many premature failures of hydraulic pumps on diesel vehicles. The temporary failure of steering, lifting and braking systems has been one result.

In the United States, other controls are used to mitigate this potential fire hazard e.g. automatic fire suppression systems. The flash point of non FRF hydraulic fluids is typically 5 times higher than that of the diesel fuel carried on board the vehicle. In the OHS Code, subsections 548(5) through (7) allow alternatives to the use of non-fire resistant fluids by recognizing the use of fire suppression systems. Automatic fire suppression systems are standard on many items of mobile diesel equipment.