FRAS rated equipment not compliant with testing requirements

October 13, 2020 Mining Editor

Queensland’s chief inspectorate of coal mines has released a report in relation to Fire Resistant Anti-Static (FRAS) rated products have failed to meet testing requirements.

The use of FRAS materials in underground mining environments plays a critical role in reducing the risk of underground ignitions. Recent testing in relation to FRAS rated products has established that two FRAS rated products have failed to meet the fire resistance and/or electrical resistance standards.

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  1. In June 2020 there was a product safety recall for Powaflex PVC FRAS hoses by Powaflex. Products tested did not meet either the relevant fire resistance or electrical resistance standards.
  2. In June and July 2020 Mines Inspectorate testing of Protex ETS FRAS established that the material being tested did not meet the electrical resistance requirements of MDG3608 4.2.2.1.
  3. In September 2020 Mines Inspectorate incendivity testing of the antistatic properties of FRAS rated materials identified the potential for FRAS material to build up sufficient charge that could lead to an incendive spark.

The use of FRAS rated equipment in underground coal mines is a control to prevent equipment from continuing to burn (FR) as well as to prevent the ignition of flammable gases or an electric shock to a person (AS). If materials purported to be FRAS do not meet the prescribed standards, this can present an unacceptable level of risk in underground coal mining operations.

Mines Inspectorate testing at Simtars identified that even AS material has the potential to store a static charge if the material is isolated from earth. This is exacerbated if the material has metallic components as part of the construction.

The Coal Mining Safety and Health Regulation 2017 (“the Regulation”) prescribes that FRAS material must be used for certain equipment at coal mines, including belt conveyors (s.256), brattice line or temporary stopping, separation stopping for a primary escapeway and ventilation ducting (Schedule 4).

It should be noted that FRAS rated materials are used in other applications underground, not prescribed in the legislation. This Safety Alert also applies to these structures or materials.

QLD inspectorate recommends that Site Senior Executives (SSEs) should conduct an audit to ensure that:

  • all equipment at the mine that is required to be FRAS rated, is FRAS rated in accordance with requirements in the Regulation;
  • all equipment at the mine that has been supplied, as required by legislation and/or as determined by the mine, as being FRAS rated has been supplied with test results for all types and variances of the equipment;
  • appropriate steps have been taken to confirm the accuracy and completeness of test results that have been supplied in relation to all FRAS rated equipment in use at the mine;
  • a dossier of all FRAS rated equipment, and supporting documentation, is maintained on site;
  • adequate measures (including testing and inspections) are implemented in relation to all FRAS rated equipment to ensure that FRAS properties are maintained over time and in all operational situations; and
  • where applicable, FRAS rated materials are adequately eartherd to ensure that a staic build up cannot occur.

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