Deformation to the metal filter access panel for the airconditioning following the explosion.
Deformation to the metal filter access panel for the airconditioning following the explosion.

Blast in underground mine truck sparks statewide safety push

An underground miner has been seriously injured after the airconditioning in a truck cabin exploded prompting the Mines Inspectorate to issue a statewide safety alert for all mine sites.

Investigations are ongoing into the incident on January 11 this year, but preliminary findings suggest the blast was caused by the use of non-compliant chemicals in the airconditioning system.

The explosion resulted in serious burns to the worker's face, hands and chest.

Luckily the worker's eyes were protected by safety glasses.

The force of the blast also dislodged some of the windows of the truck's cabin, blowing them clear of the vehicle.

A window lying where it was ejected by the blast in an underground mine on January 11, 2021
A window lying where it was ejected by the blast in an underground mine on January 11, 2021

Resources Safety and Health Queensland confirmed the airconditioning had been "charged with a refrigerant containing propane and isobutane (hydrocarbon) instead of compliance with the original equipment manufacturer requirement (OEM)", which stipulates the use of "R134a refrigerant".

"The AC was not certified for the use of the hydrocarbon refrigerant," a Resources Safety and Health Queensland spokesman said in a statement.

"Personnel servicing and charging the AC did not hold Queensland Gas Work Licenses for working with hydrocarbon refrigerant.

 

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"The release of hydrocarbon refrigerant from the AC into the cab created an explosive atmosphere which was ignited by an unidentified source."

The RSHQ spokesman said a similar incident occurred in 2014 when a drill operator in a coal mine suffered burns to the face, hand and torso in a blast after hydrocarbon refrigerant leaked from the AC system and ignited.

Key recommendations include the site senior executive ensuring they inspect all refrigeration plant and equipment including AC units on mobile plants to verify compliance and any not specified by the OEM must immediately be quarantined from use.

 

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If an alternate refrigerant is used, the system must be inspected and certified for the use of that alternate refrigerant.

"In the case of hydrocarbon refrigerants, this is certified by the Petroleum and Gas Inspectorate," the RSHQ spokesman said.

"Any refrigerants may only be charged or drained by persons that are specifically licensed for those refrigerants."


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