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39Working On Compressed Air Lines

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Brief Description of Incident/Accident & Description of Consequences/Outcomes:

A recent fatality at an underground mine has unfortunately once again highlighted the dangers of compressed air and the amount of energy that is stored in mine reticulation systems. Compressed air is used extensively throughout the mining industry for many tasks. Its use varies from inflating tyres, to driving small hand tools in small workshops and to powering large underground machinery. The vessels, pipes and valves used in compressed air systems are often required to be repaired, modified or extended to meet the demands of a mine site.

Energy Type(s) Involved:

Uncontrolled release of compressed air

Root & Contributing Cause(s):

LTA isolation

LTA Standard Work Procedures (SWP)

LTA work method

Stated or Potential Consequence(s):


Preventative/Recommended/Accepted Steps of Risk Mitigation, Points of Interest:

Compressed air is an energy source that has the potential to cause extensive damage and injury if it is not controlled. Mines must ensure that controls are implemented to ensure the risk to those working on compressed air lines is at an acceptable level. People must be competent and familiar with the correct procedures and standards before working on compressed air systems or lines.

As with any work involving stored energy, strict isolation procedures must to be adhered to before commencing any work on compressed air systems.

All mines and quarries should ensure isolation procedures are in-place to cover the isolating, de-pressurising, testing, and the returning to service of compressed air systems.

Guidance notes for development of isolation procedures can be accessed on the Mines Inspectorate web page at:

Along with the recent fatality there have been several other documented incidents over the years where not only compressed air but also other pressurised substances have caused extensive damage and personal injury. In particular, refer to Safety Alert No1 "Failure to Isolate Compressed Air Line” issued on 20/1/2000 by the Queensland Inspectorate which states:

“In an Underground coal mine two parallel pipe branches comprising a 100 mm compressed air line and a 100 mm pump line had been installed. The task was to install pipe closures to join these pipe branches to the main line. Tee pieces had been installed into the main lines to receive each of the branches. All the pipes were suspended from the roof by chains. Connected to each Tee section in sequence were a 100 mm butterfly valve, 25 mm valve and an end cap. Both these lines were 100 mm galvanised pipes with Victaulic clamps of the quick release lever type. The pump line closure had been installed and preparations were being made to install the airline closure. The 100 mm butterfly valve on the airline had been closed and the end of the tee section bled of pressure through the 25mm valve. A miner was attempting to remove the end cap by releasing the quick release clamp. The end cap was ejected from the end of the pipe under pressure striking the miner in the face causing severe injuries.”

All workers should be made aware of or reminded of the hazards associated with compressed air systems and lines. Management at all mines and quarries need to have developed and then periodically review isolation procedures. These procedures should address the ability to safely isolate all forms of energy and pressurised systems including compressed air.

EMESRT Risk(s):

Stored energy systems

ISOLgate Checklist(s):

Download Stored energy systems Checklist.


Queensland Government Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI)


Here are the results.


Reference Type:

Safety Bulletin #41

EMESRT Risk(s):

Stored energy systems

Mine Type:

Any Mine Type


Potential & Kinetik - Pressure > Pneumatic





Australia, Queensland

ISOLgate Checklist(s)

Stored energy systems Checklist.

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