Bag found covering methane sensor in mine

IT IS about the most dangerous use for plastic bag imaginable.

At an unnamed Queensland mine, a bag was used to cover a methane sensor designed to warn underground mine workers when there was a risk of explosion.

Human senses are unable to notice a dangerous increase in methane levels.

It was a revelation published in the annual health and safety report released by the Queensland Department of Mines earlier this week.

It was also an example of dangerous practice at the notorious Pike River Mine where 29 workers were killed in an explosion - although the bagged sensors were not considered to blame.

So why is the department and industry quietly praising the mine?

According to the department, the response was rapid and thorough.

The bag was put over the sensor during cleaning to ensure it was not damaged.

Before the heavy machinery disappeared back into the underground mine, the offending bag was spotted by a worker.

Rather than simply removing the bag, it was reported to senior management and eventually to the government for investigation, exactly in line with safety protocols.

The covering of a gas sensor underground is considered akin to placing a plastic bag over a smoke detector.

If methane levels reach a critical point - above 5% - and the machine is not properly maintained, it can cause an explosion.