A safety expert says the explosion of a semi-trailer loaded with blasting material in WA could have been averted.

An incident unfolded in October 2022, when a road train carrying ammonium nitrate emulsion (ANE), a substance used in mine site blasting, exploded on the Great Central Road. The blast left a 17-metre crater in its wake.

The blaze originated after the fire melted a hole in the side of the aluminium tanker, sparking the ignition of the blasting fluid. 

The explosion decimated nearby trees and hurled a 100-kilogram steel projectile a staggering 413 metres from the blast site, with a 31-kilogram trailer fragment discovered 672 metres away.

The driver, transporting 61 tonnes of ANE, noticed smoke emerging from the rear passenger side wheels of the second trailer while traversing an unsealed section of the Great Central Road. 

For 14 minutes, the driver battled the inferno using two chemical extinguishers and one water-based extinguisher, even going beneath the burning trailer as the flames spread. 

However, unable to quell the fire, the driver ultimately disconnected the rear tanker and fled 3 kilometres away to safety before the explosion.

Chief dangerous goods officer of the Department of Mines Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS), Iain Dainty, says that the explosion could have been entirely prevented had the driver been equipped to extinguish the fire effectively.

A DMIRS report revealed that dry or chemical fire extinguishers, two of which the driver employed, were ill-suited for tire fires due to their inability to cool the area and prevent reignition. 

The report insisted on pressurised foam or water-based firefighting systems to combat ANE tanker fires effectively.

This revelation comes after two more incidents involving trucks carrying ANE occurred, one in New Norcia in June and another in Newman in August. While these trucks caught fire, they did not explode. In both instances, the drivers struggled to extinguish the flames.

Despite these alarming incidents, Mr Dainty says that exploding trucks are still rare, with the Goldfields explosion marking the first case of ANE detonation during transport worldwide since the product's bulk transportation inception in the 1980s.

Of the 16 recommendations proposed in the DMIRS report, two involve installing onboard fire suppression systems and opting for water or foam extinguishers instead of chemicals for ammonium nitrate transport. 

Other suggestions include implementing heat shields, protective barriers, and tire overheating sensors. 

Transport companies and mine sites have already begun adopting additional safety measures in the wake of this disaster.

In response, the state government has instructed DMIRS to enact legislative changes and develop a new code of practice to mitigate future risks.