Preventing Equipment Fires

Sunday, January 10, 2010

There is no free oxygen in the underground, and nothing consumes oxygen faster than fire. In Ontario in 2008, 80 underground fires were reported to the Ministry of Labour. Heavy equipment is a often a source of underground fires. Without preventive maintenance and operator training, the equipment lends itself to creating fire hazards - engine temperatures can reach 500 Celsius causing the ignition of fuels such as oil and grease. Faulty wiring and overheated components can also cause fires to ignite.

A member company recently experienced a fire when the operator of a 30-ton truck saw flames at the end of one of the truck’s axles. The operator had been frequently using the brakes while hauling down a ramp in second gear. The overuse of brakes caused a series of events to unfold that resulted in an underground fire: the hot linings and brake disc material disintegrated, the oil cooling line then became plugged causing the oil seal to fail and eject oil out of the hub. The oil ignited when exposed to air.  


Prevention of equipment fires requires a prevention program for both maintenance staff and equipment operators. 

At a minimum a preventative maintenance program should include:

  • An inventory of all equipment
  • A method and schedule to determine the frequency of cleaning heavy equipment
  • Training and refresher training for maintenance workers in identifying and removing fire hazards such as loose hoses; or broken, worn and damaged wiring
  • A follow-up process to ensure inspections and maintenance are being effectively completed and documented

At a minimum, all operators should be trained in fire prevention and suppression, and proper operation of equipment. The program should include:

  • Training in pre-operational checks that include identifying fire hazards
  • Training in use of the fire extinguishers and fire suppression system
  • Training and driver assessments to ensure brakes and components are not being overused
  • A follow-up process to ensure inspections and maintenance are being effectively completed and documented


Regulation 854, Mines and Mining Plants has several sections dealing with fire prevention in both underground and surface operations. Regulations include:

Section 41(4)(5)Fire extinguishing equipment and inspection 

Section 43Storage and handling of dangerous material

Section 26Refuge stations