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TBM Refuge Rooms


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I was recently on a construction site where a tunnel boring machine (TBM) is being constructed in connection with the controversial HS2 project

I was suprised to discover that the TBMs are fitted with a Refuge Room. With its own power and air supply, it provides a place of relative safety for tunnelling crews during an emergency- especially fire.

The TBMs are of course only accessible via the tunnel they have just cut, and the one I looked at will create 5 miles + dead end situation before it is lifted out. Rescue would be challenging to say the least

I worked at a station in the 80s and 90s where a huge water main tunnel/,reservoir was built (London Water Ring Main) but cannot recall that we were given any special training or instructions during this time.

The LFB did attend a very serious fire during tunneling works around that time and just about got away with it. And then we had some training.

I wonder if that has changed now. With tunneling becoming seemingly widespread,  have you had any dealings with planning or training ? How the hell do you remove 20 staff from a refuge 5 miles in, especially when their crew train isn't available ?

I know the Refuge Room can accommodate staff for many hours while the incident is being dealt with, but sod being stuck in one!

Thankfully I wasn't visiting site in a fire safety or emergency planning capacity so didn't have to come up with a plan

Have you?


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I now deliver C&G tunnel entry and rescue training to industry. On all courses the candidates are trained in the use of oxygen re breathers (Savox or dredger foxy 3000 or 6000) The course candidates are also trained on the use of Refuge chambers. 

Last month there was a fire in one of the HS2 tunnels an electric MSV caught light. All those in the tunnel used their escape sets and all the miners the other side of the fire used their escape sets to get to the Refuge chamber. They then remained in the chamber for 18 hours whilst the fire was extinguished and made safe.

Under the 6164 approved code of practice for the industry the escape sets must last a minimum of 30 minutes and the Refuge chamber a minimum of 24 hours.

Refuge chambers were used on the channel tunnel, cross rail and are still being used on the Thames tideway project to name but a few.

Should you want further information or training please direct message me!


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