Any restricted environment can be particularly hazardous, and this is certainly the case when it comes to the mining industry. Workers have to toil away in difficult-enough conditions as it is, and there's a constant risk of injury, even if they conform to stringent safety standards. Within any mine, many different processes and mining equipment rely on electricity as a power source, and this adds an even greater risk of danger if it is not controlled very carefully. What is the biggest risk associated with this power source in an underground work site?
Due to the confined nature of a mine and its very specific environment, any electrical operation carries with it the risk of an arc flash. This is a sudden release of energy through a tremendously powerful burst that can cause serious injury or even death to anyone who is within the vicinity. There is so much heat involved that serious burns can be caused, as the temperature during this event can be extreme. Furthermore, the energy released will produce a sound wave with a deafening roar and enough pressure to throw people against machinery or cause various tools and equipment to fly through the air, with devastating results.
Types of Risk
People who have been caught up in this type of event have been left with long-lasting injuries, hearing or vision loss and ongoing sensitivities. It's not unusual for this type of incident to close down a mine, with obvious loss of productivity, while the costs to individuals in terms of health care and compensation payments can be equally galling.
It's very important to exercise additional care whenever electrical equipment is being worked on within a mining site. An electrical arc flash can be caused quite easily if the technician were to drop a tool that came into contact with conductors.
Whenever work is being conducted, it's important to have a risk assessment in place and to create a strategy to help deal with ongoing work. All employees should be issued with protective clothing or equipment if necessary, and everyone should be aware that work is progressing under such risks. These days, it may also be possible to apply certain tools or technology to installed equipment that will significantly cut down on the risk of an arc flash.
If you are in charge of safety or productivity within a mine, make sure that you get electricians who are in turn experienced and can help you avoid such a catastrophic incident.