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Risk control measures relating to explosion prevention in coal mines

Author : Dr John Ford - Principal Inspector; Health, Safety & Engineering Consultants Ltd

28 November 2013

Explosions at coal mines worldwide have been occurring ever since coal mining began.

One such explosion in 1913, at Senghenydd mine in South Wales, resulted in over 400 people dying which is still the largest single loss of life in a British coalmine.


**This paper will be presented at HazardEx 2014, contact us for details of the available delegate packages & offers** 

HazardEx 2014 conference speaker
HazardEx 2014 conference speaker

The explosion at Pike River coal  mine in New Zealand in 2010 resulted in 29 people dying and a Royal Commission. The last explosion at a British coal mine was at Kellingley mine in Yorkshire in 2010.

The flammable gases in coal mines are:

a)  methane given off from the coal measures,

b)  hydrogen  given off  by  underground fires  in  confined spaces  or  when charging  and

discharging electrical batteries,

c)  carbon monoxide given off by diesel engines and the use of explosives underground or by underground fires in confined spaces.

The potential ignition sources that can be present in coal mines are:

a)  portable gas detectors, cap lamps and flame safety lamps,  

b)  spontaneous combustion, 

c)  open fire / heat sources, 

Dr John Ford
Dr John Ford

d)  smoking, 

e)  the use of explosives, 

f)  electrostatic sparking, 

g)  electrical equipment, 

h)  mechanical equipment, 

i)  frictional ignition and, 

j)  incendive sparking.   

Coal  mine  operators have  a  legal duty  to  prevent explosions  but  most generic  industrial standards are focussed on Group II (non mining) environments.  

This paper will examine the control measures that are employed by mine operators to prevent

dangerous accumulations of explosive gases, the control of potential ignition sources and the methods of preventing a gas explosion propagating into a coal dust explosion.


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