Fire caused by hot works at a quarry

WorkSafe is issuing a reminder about the risks associated with hot works, after a hopper liner and screen caught fire at a quarry.

The fire started while bolts were being cut with an oxy-acetylene torch during maintenance activities. Emergency services were required to extinguish the fire.

Safety issues

Hot work is any work that has the potential to ignite nearby combustible, flammable or explosive material. Common hot work tasks include welding, cutting, grinding and heat treatment.

Hot work processes can create hazards such as:

  • Fire – caused by heat, molten metal, sparks or direct contact with cutting or welding flames.
  • Explosions – caused by the presence of gas, liquid vapours or suspended flammable dust.
  • Toxic fumes – generated directly from the hot work process or through heat decomposition of nearby material(s).

These hazards create a serious risk to employees’ health and safety that can lead to injury, illness and death. For example, burns from heat radiation or contact with flames, sparks, molten metal or hot surfaces, and exposure to hazardous fumes.

Hot work processes have the potential to ignite fires that can travel beyond site boundaries, such as grass or bush fires. Fires may also start well after the completion of any hot work activities due to residual heat.

Recommended ways to control risks

Control measures when undertaking hot works should include:

  • Identify any potentially flammable or combustible materials in the area, such as rubbish, dust, oils, grease, rubber, plastics, or other substances that could be potential fuel sources or generate dust explosions.
  • Remove any flammable or combustible material in the area. If materials cannot be removed use flame proof covers or screens, or wet the materials down before and during the work.
  • Ensure the area is adequately ventilated.
  • Assign a designated fire watch person to monitor the hot work environment.
  • Conduct post work inspections for smouldering material prior to leaving the area. For example, before a break, at the end of a shift or at the completion of work.
  • Ensure adequate firefighting equipment is available and ready for use.
  • Identify and establish suitable exclusion zones for personnel and vehicles.
  • Ensure employees are wearing appropriate non-flammable personal protective equipment.
  • Establish and train all personnel on emergency and evacuation procedures.

Quarry operators must be aware of any restrictions that apply during Fire Danger Periods or Total Fire Ban days.

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must:

  • Provide and maintain for employees a safe working environment, so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Provide such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees of the employer as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

Ensure that persons other than employees of the employer are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the employer, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Standards Australia

Standards Australia provides Australian Standards information relating to the safety and reliability of a range of products. The following Australian Standard may be of benefit when identifying and controlling risks:

  • AS/NZS 1674.1:1997 – Safety in welding and allied processes Part 1: Fire Precautions

SOURCE:

Work Safe Victoria

January 9, 2020

https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/safety-alerts/fire-caused-hot-works-quarry