Safeguarding mining vehicles from fire

The design and installation of a vehicle fire protection system requires that mining vehicles go through a fire risk evaluation.

Mining vehicles are high-value assets operating under harsh conditions that could result in a fire outbreak at any moment. The appropriate protection should therefore always be available at hand. ASP Fire assists companies to prepare for potentially fatal vehicle fires that could also cost millions in unplanned downtime.

ASP Fire, operating across the entire African continent from its Gauteng, South Africa base, provides professional, accredited fire risk management and support to its clients. The company designs, installs and maintains a full range of fire detection and suppression equipment customised to clients’ needs.

The design and installation of a vehicle fire protection system requires that mining vehicles go through a fire risk evaluation, which includes the Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) of potential fires. Each vehicle needs to be carefully assessed within its operating environment to understand what hazards and fire risks that vehicle is exposed to.

“During the assessment, the inherent fire risks in the vehicle are identified, such as the turbo chargers and the brake system, which could overheat, as well as high-pressure hydraulic systems and electrical equipment that may cause an ignition of a combustible or flammable component of the vehicle. This can be done from smaller vehicles such as excavators, through to massive mining vehicles such as haul trucks and drag lines,” says Michael van Niekerk, CEO of ASP Fire.

Michael-van-NiekerkMichael van Niekerk, CEO of ASP Fire.

ASP Fire designs a system to suit each vehicle and its requirements. The company looks at the conditions not only inside the vehicle, but also within the surrounding environment. “For instance, a bush fire may encroach a vehicle operating in a timber forest, or hot slag from a foundry can cause a vehicle’s tyres to catch fire within seconds,” adds van Niekerk.

Although DCP extinguishers are highly-effective in extinguishing flames, they offer minimal cooling properties. This results in re-ignition of flames, particularly in liquid fuel and rubber fires, thereby increasing the risk of property damage and loss of life.

A more effective and environmentally-friendly solution is said to be the I-CAT range of Water Mist special risk and handheld fire extinguishers, available through ASP Fire. Using water as the main agent and nitrogen as a propellant, this handheld range is capable of extinguishing most types of fire, including rubber and plastic fires; kitchen cooking oil fires; diesel and petrol fires; and electrical fires rated up to 350kV.

The atomised mist generated by the extinguisher firstly increases the surface area of water by more than a hundredfold. These micro droplets then turn rapidly into steam when they come into contact with burning or very hot materials. The endothermic reaction of water converting to steam rapidly and effectively is said to cool down any hot surfaces in the immediate environment, extinguishing the fire and cooling down hot spots without causing thermal shock. It also creates a thermal heat radiation barrier between the operator and the fire, allowing the operator to get close to the fire without the risk of being burned when operating the extinguisher.

The Water Mist range is environmentally-friendly and ensures greater operator safety. Each litre of water is converted to 1 700 litres of cold steam, making it extremely safe and efficient in knocking down and thereafter extinguishing a fire. What’s more, the small quantity of water used also results in little or no consequential damage.

Van Niekerk indicates that the fixed, special risk I-CAT Water Mist system includes a protection mechanism that eliminates false alarms. “It boasts a heat sensitive pressurised activation tube, which requires heat to rupture and open a differential valve on the main cylinder to activate the system,” he says.


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