How to Avoid Electrical Hazards in Mining Sites
Mining sites are full of potential hazards, especially when it comes to electrical construction materials. In addition to the risk of electrocution, workers in mines also face the threat of arc blast injuries and damage from flammable gasses or other materials. Understanding the potential dangers plays a large role in your ability to prevent them.
Construction of the electrical system
The construction of an electrical system in a mine includes the equipment used within the area as well as assembly and connections of individual parts.
- Planning, installation, protection, commissioning, testing and maintenance processes for your electrical system should be designed for the highest level of risk control.
- Provide a secure power source for electrical equipment, including control rooms, environmental monitoring equipment, ventilation systems and winding apparatus.
- Check if the equipment you have chosen is compatible with your existing system, and that power supply can be isolated or cut off where necessary.
- Electrical systems should be designed to reduce the risk of power loss as well as minimizing the risk of electrical damage to people, property and machinery.
- Avoid using materials that pose a potential threat, including insulation types that emit toxic fumes, flammable compounds, etc.
Dealing with areas that may be potentially explosive
At a mining site with flammable gasses or dust, it’s important to determine zones at mining sites that may be more prone to explosion than others:
- Create and maintain an appropriate plan for below-ground zones with dangerous levels of flammable gas or dust.
- Ensure that electrical equipment installed or used in these zones is properly certified for high-risk mining applications.
- If you’re using non-certified equipment in high-risk zones, make sure that you have set appropriate guidelines for safe use.
- Provide easily visible signs and notices regarding electrical safety in mines, particularly in terms of safe equipment usage.
Controlling environmental hazards
Mining sites generally feature less-than-ideal conditions for using electrical equipment, and it’s crucial to guard against potential dangers:
- Understand the environmental factors and working conditions that may affect safe operation of electrical equipment at a mining site.
- Ensure that all equipment is protected against mining site hazards such as moisture, stress, vibration, impact, crushing and abrasion.
- If electrical material could face exposure to flammable gasses or dust, minimize ignition risk during selection, installation and maintenance.
Bonding, earthing and connections
Proper earthing is critical for any electrical system at mining sites, where the damage from electrical faults can be especially severe:
- Avoid combining neutral and protective conductors in high-risk or explosive zones, since these may become charged at a higher potential.
- Where such combinations are used, ensure that operators or workers do not come in contact with the neutral and earth at the same time.
- Bond together any metalwork that may become charged and connect it to the protective conductor, to reduce risk of electric shock or burns.
- Connect the electrical system at the mining site to the general mass of earth, metallic installation framework or other reference point for safe use.
- Referencing or earthing conductors need to be designed and constructed according to the maximum current carried under fault conditions.
- Make sure that connections are properly insulated against electric shock as well as overheating, arcing, sparking and other risks.
Isolation and flammable gas detection
If an operator or system detects the presence of flammable gas above the maximum permissible limit at a mining site:
- Electrical equipment in or near that area should be immediately isolated from the power supply, or made safe in other ways.
- In addition to cutting off power supply, equipment running on batteries or other internal power sources should be removed to a safe area.
- The supply of electricity should not be re-established until a supervisor determines that the threat has been dealt with.
Your mining site should also be equipped with electrical shock notices that inform workers about the risks, first aid facilities and emergency action to be taken in case of electrocution. Make sure that these are easily accessible, and include warnings about the use of electrical equipment by unauthorized personnel
About this author
Jeson Pitt works with the marketing department of D&F Liquidators and regularly writes to share his knowledge while enlightening people about electrical products and solving their electrical dilemmas. He’s got the industry insights that you can count on along with years of experience in the field. Jeson lives in Hayward, CA, and loves to explore different cuisines that the food trucks in the Bay area have to offer.