Fire protection and safety in tunnels: ventilation, fire suppression and fast responses

Atmosphere monitoring and efficient ventilation are essential for ensuring mine safety. Photo by ilka val on Pixabay

Dangerous equipment and potentially toxic gases in underground tunnels makes the mining industry particularly susceptible to the risk of workplace fires. Fire protection and safety in tunnels is essential.

Fire in an underground mine can prove fatal, especially when working in confined spaces with ventilation systems that are not optimised and limited evacuation routes. The presence of gas such as methane in tunnels also introduces the risk of catastrophic explosion.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration and PPE manufactures continue to work to develop safety equipment to prevent fires or protect works in emergency scenarios.

What are the key concerns when it comes to fire safety?

Atmosphere monitoring and efficient ventilation are essential for ensuring mine safety. Tunnel operators must also ensure that equipment meets MSHA standards and is fitted with adequate fire suppression systems. To be prepared in case a fire does break out, workers must be provided with suitable personal safety equipment, be trained to use it efficiently, and be aware of the safest escape routes.

Studies by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) show that ventilation air velocity significantly affects fire detection and suppression capabilities. Additionally, underground conveyor belts can produce smoke and toxic gases, which are carried around the mine through the ventilation system.

Fire protection and safety equipment

To combat the dangerous associated with inadequate ventilation and fire suppression systems, mining infrastructure and safety equipment is advancing to make the industry safer and more efficient.

There are now a number of options available to mine operators to ensure that the atmosphere underground is safe, minimising the risk of fire. Ventilation on demand (VOD) uses sensors to detect where machinery and workers are in order to direct clean air flow in that direction, instead of venting to unoccupied areas of the mine.

The use of heavy machinery and conveyor belts underground means that dust and toxic gases are inevitable. Ventilation mining curtains direct air to specific areas of the mine, detecting and trapping any potential contamination.

Personal protective equipment for fire safety comprises a range of products, including handheld gas detection units, firefighting packs and breathing apparatus.

Fire safety from Carroll Technologies

Carroll Technologies has more than thirty years of experience providing safety solutions to the mining industry. From its distribution network of more than 70 manufactures, Carroll Supplies a range of fire safety equipment across North America, including self-contained self-rescuers (SCSR), multi-gas detection instruments, firefighting equipment and foam packs.

Carroll Technologies also supplies a range of customisable ventilation curtains from Bluefield Manufacturing. Its portfolio is designed to be tear-resistant and work efficiently even in high temperatures.

For equipment and belt monitoring applications, Carroll offers solutions such as the Pyott Boone Electronics’ (PBE) Belt Boss series, which monitors all aspects of conveyor belt operations, including the generation of dust and the spread of fires, as well as the risk of equipment breakage and workers falling.

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