Investigating a coalmine explosion was the subject of a recent South Wales association meeting which turned the audienceinto engineering detectives.
The meeting was led by Professor Albert Davies, a health and safety consultant to the mines and quarries industry. He presented the audience with the evidence he gave to court where hehad been brought in as an expert witness.
Davies described an investigation he had carried out into a 1993 coalmine explosion in South Africa where 53 mineworkers died. Before the explosion the mine had five stars which indicated the highest safety record for a mine of its type. The day following theincident, the stars were removed.
The talk showed how he had unravelled conflicting and grisly injuries to the victims. The facts revealed to the expert's eye that fire damp, lying undetected above the heads of a small working party, was ignited, leading to a catastrophic explosionwhich travelled at about 650km/h.
The results of the investigations led the mine owners to change procedures but Professor Davies fears that the poor accident history of the region together with standards many years behind those of Europe could still lead to bad accidents.