Ammonium nitrate explodes during transport incident

Explosives safety alert no. 86 | 09 October 2014 | Version 1

What happened?

A road train carrying forty-four 1.2 tonne bags of ammonium nitrate manufactured for explosives use was involved in a single vehicle accident. The truck, traveling at night in a remote area, left the road ending-up in a dry creek bed adjacent to a road bridge and in close proximity to a rail bridge. The vehicle was on fire and the driver was injured. Two other truck drivers stopped to assist. The emergency services were called. A small explosion occurred while the responding police and fire crews were tending to the injured driver.

They relocated to a position further away from the burning vehicle, however, a large second explosion occurred. All people at the scene sustained injuries, most of them very serious. The road train, two fire trucks and road bridge were destroyed, the rail bridge sustained major structural damage and the police car sustained significant damage.

Ammonium nitrate is liable to explosion when exposed to extreme heat or fire, a combination of heat and pressure, contamination with fuels, organic matter and other chemicals and subjected to stimuli capable of causing an explosion, or a combination of any of these.

Recommendations

These are general recommendations and do not reflect the findings or recommendations of the ongoing investigation into the nature and cause of this incident.

Transporters review their safety management systems to ensure the risks with the transport of ammonium nitrate are controlled to prevent an accident that may lead to an explosion and the consequences of any accident are minimised including:

  1. Ensure vehicle maintenance is of a standard to prevent road accidents
  2. Drivers are trained, have appropriate experience and procedures are in place to ensure they are fit for work
  3. The hazards and risks in an emergency situation involving ammonium nitrate are understood and communicated to those involved in emergency response
  4. Emergency response procedures are adequate, well understood and practiced
  5. The vehicle fire fighting equipment is appropriate and serviceable and operators are trained in its use
  6. The in vehicle monitoring system and GPS tracking systems are operating correctly

Ensure that the requirements and provisions of the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road or Rail are complied with.


Authorised by Geoff Downs - Chief Inspector of Explosives
Contact: , Manager, Explosives Licensing, + 61 7 3199 8057 explosives@dnrm.qld.gov.au

Issued by Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines


Safety: This information is a guide only and is issued to promote safety through experience. It is not to be taken as a statement of law and must not be construed to waive or modify any legal obligation.

Find more safety alerts and bulletins

Search the hazards database