Report on vehicle fire in the Fjærland tunnel on Norwegian national road 5 on 17 April 2017
Deficiencies in the safeguarding and facilitation of the self-rescue principle during the implementation of tunnel work contributed to thirteen road users being trapped in smoke when a fire occurred in a road sweeper inside the Fjærland tunnel on 17 April 2017. The AIBN recommends the establishment of physical guiding systems in tunnels, improvement of routines relating to planning of tunnel work, and an increased focus on the safeguarding and facilitation of the self-rescue principle in manuals that deal with tunnel work.
The fire broke out in a road sweeper that was part of a work team carrying out cleaning work inside the Fjærland tunnel. The fire originated on the front right side of the vehicle, probably as a result of a leak in the sweeping car`s hydraulic system.
Traffic management was in place during the tunnel work, and vehicles drove through the tunnel in convoys led by an escort vehicle.
When the fire ventilation in the tunnel was activated, a convoy consisting of eight vehicles was trapped in the smoke originating from the vehicle fire. The convoy did not succeed in turning around inside the smoke-filled part of the tunnel, and the road users left their vehicles to continue the evacuation on foot. Several of the road users sustained serious smoke injuries during the evacuation.
The investigation has shown that the tunnel safety equipment, and the construction client’s planning and the contractor’s implementation of the tunnel work, did not sufficiently safeguard and facilitate the self-rescue principle.
The AIBN issues four safety recommendations on the basis of this investigation.
Safety recommendation ROAD No 2019/13T
The investigation of the vehicle fire in the Fjærland tunnel on 17 April 2017, as well as several of AIBN’s previous investigations of tunnel fires, have shown that road users can quickly lose visibility and become disoriented in smoke-filled tunnels. The tunnel wall is often used as a point of reference to find the way out of the tunnel, and a physical guiding system on tunnel walls, for example a handrail, is therefore a relevant safety measure.
The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration give priority to establishing physical guiding systems to help road users in the event of evacuation in both existing and planned road tunnels.
Safety recommendation ROAD No 2019/14T
The investigation of the vehicle fire in the Fjærland tunnel on 17 April 2017 has found that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration's health, safety and environmental (HSE) plan was of a general nature, and applied to all work operations carried out under the maintenance contract in question. The HSE plan’s risk assessment covered a number of risks that were not relevant to the work conducted in the Fjærland tunnel. However, tunnel fire was not identified as a specific risk.
The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration establish procedures to either ensure that work in tunnels is addressed in separate HSE plans, or that existing HSE plans are revised and adapted to the specific conditions in the tunnel.
Safety recommendation ROAD No 2019/15T
The investigation of the vehicle fire in the Fjærland tunnel on 17 April 2017 has found that the work notification plan and the pertaining risk assessment for the work in the tunnel did not mention vehicle fire or measures to evacuate road users in the event of an incident. The AIBN is of the opinion that the road user perspective should be made clearer in work notification plans and pertaining risk assessments for work in tunnels.
The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration include work in tunnels and evacuation as special risks in the guide to filling in risk assessments pertaining to the work notification plan.
Safety recommendation ROAD No 2019/16T
The investigation of the vehicle fire in the Fjærland tunnel on 17 April 2017 has shown that the preconditions for the self-rescue principle were not safeguarded, either in the planning or in the implementation of the work in the Fjærland tunnel. In the AIBN's opinion, the lack of focus on this issue on the part of both the construction client and the contractors can be partly explained by a corresponding lack of focus in the applicable manuals. Among other things, the AIBN calls for requirements regarding communication between escort vehicle drivers and people working inside and outside the tunnel, as well as a requirement for an evacuation plan to be prepared.
The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration revise manuals that deal with tunnel work to ensure that the manuals mention and consider the preconditions for the self-rescue principle in connection with traffic management.
|Location||National Road 5, the Fjærland tunnel, Sogn og Fjordane county|
|Accident type||Fire in vehicle|
|Road class||National road|
|County||Sogn og Fjordane|
|Police Disctrict||Sogn og Fjordane|
|Type of Transportation||Transfer work/assignment|
|Road region||Western Region|
|Accident category||Ulykke i tunnel|