Miner suffers acid burn to eyes

A LONGWALL mine worker received facial injuries and chemical burns to his eyes when a pressurised fluid-filled line was released, letting loose a diluted foam catalyst made up of sulphuric acid, phenol and phenolsulphonic acid.
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Angie Tomlinson

The incident was caused by the disconnection of a pressurised fluid-filled line that had not been reduced before disconnection started.

The Queensland Mines Inspectorate said the worker was not wearing safety goggles at the time of the accident.

The injury occurred at the end of a 12-hour shift in which foam had been injected into a cavity in the roof of a longwall face. The worker was in the process of packing up and storing the gear ready for the next night shift.

Initial first-aid treatment was carried out by flushing the injured worker’s eyes with water before being treated by paramedics.

He did not lose his eyesight.

The Inspectorate said the incident emphasised the importance of controlling the release of hazardous energy, wearing correct personal protective equipment (safety goggles/face shield) and immediate first-aid treatment where eyes come into contact with hazardous chemicals.

While the main cause of the accident was the failure to fully dissipate the pressure in the hose, the Inspectorate said other contributing factors included the lack of specific instructions about the process; ineffective verbal communication as the injured worker proceeded to crack the lines at the pump thinking that the pump operator had already released the pressure; the fact that the crew was at the end of a 12-hour shift; and the presence of a load haul dumper in the area, creating a noisy environment and hindering communication.

The Inspectorate made a number of recommendations to avoid a similar incident in future:

Installation of three-way valves for isolation and depressurisation of fluid lines

Design equipment with the facility to permit locks to be used for isolation

In addition to colour coding, ensure valves and gauges are labelled with text

Conduct a review of risk assessments that have analysed “using liquid chemicals under pressure”

Review procedures in relation to de-energising and isolation

Reinforce the requirement for and re-emphasise the importance of positive and effective communication

Refresher training for all workers specifically for isolation and depressurisation

Reinforce the requirement for and re-emphasise the importance of wearing appropriate PPE suitable for the task

Retrain workers and supervisors to ensure specific requirements of Mines SOP for Personal Protective Equipment, Isolation and Tagging, and MSDS for use of the chemical.

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