Mining company fined for arc flash incident

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Photo: Activedia, Pixabay

A mining company has been fined $65,000 in the Perth Magistrates Court following an incident in which a worker was injured in an electrical arc flash at the company’s Ravensthorpe nickel operations.

The victim was employed as an electrician on the site was working inside an electrical substation on 29 July 2011 when the arc flash occurred.

He sustained burns to his left hand and the left side of his face because of the incident. He underwent medical treatment and was hospitalised.

The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety in its investigation found an internal report into a previous incident four months earlier had identified the danger of working on the Motor Control Centre (MCC) without full isolation.

No hard barricade was present behind the isolator to prevent accidental contact with uninsulated live bus bars. The potential of an arc flash happening again was identified as “major” and the likelihood was “possible”.

DMIRS recommended that the MCC be fully isolated prior to working on the module and that a hard barricade be installed to prevent accidental contact with the live bus bars.

“This was a preventable incident and had the potential to be fatal,” said Mines Safety Director Andrew Chaplyn.

“It is critical that companies immediately implement actions recommended from previous incidents and ensure there are effective controls in place.

“The dangers of an arc flash and electrocution are well known as are the control measures that should be taken to avoid them.”

Energy Safety is in the process of amending legislation to ban electrical work on energised electrical equipment, including electrical work done on mine sites. It is expected that the proposed changes will come into effect later this year.

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