Document warned fire fighters of deadly gas

A DOCUMENT which warned of “potentially deadly” pockets of carbon monoxide in the Hazelwood mine, was only in its draft stage at the time of the February blaze, despite having been written four years earlier.

The draft Standard Operating Procedure for fighting fires in Latrobe Valley mines drew on experiences from previous mine fires, including an extensive report from 2006 which established “potentially deadly pockets of (carbon monoxide) had developed in the mine” and had comments on what would need to be done in the event of fires of that nature.

Counsel assisting the Hazelwood Mine Fire Board of Inquiry Peter Rozen said it was “perplexing” the document remained a draft for four years.

Victorian Chief Fire Commissioner Craig Lapsley conceded this.

“It’s not good enough is it Mr Lapsley that it is a not a priority?” Mr Rozen said.

“My observation is that it should have been signed,” Mr Lapsley replied.

However, Mr Lapsley added the draft SOP was used as a guiding document for a plan created on Monday, 10 February to combat the fire.

With 14 firefighters hospitalised for carbon monoxide poisoning, Mr Lapsley said while exposure was a key issue, he agreed other factors, like mine bank stability, were also taken into consideration.

“The carbon monoxide issue was front and centre and very prevalent but we shouldn’t underestimate the other health and safety issues,” Mr Lapsley said.

Mr Lapsley’s views were congruent with incident controllers Bob Barry and Jim Haynes who told the board on Thursday, daily meetings between the incident control centre and mine management staff were helpful in maintaining the health and safety of those on the ground.

“(There was a) constant connection to the mine’s management people, particularly those people who are there in the mine everyday,” Mr Lapsley said.

Out of the 7000 firefighters who fought the mine fire, 23 have made Work Cover claims.

To view the transcript of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inqiry public hearings on Friday, 30 May, click here