Hammering home safety

Mining is a notoriously hazardous industry, spurring some companies to go the extra mile in ensuring the health and safety of their people.

Located in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley, Glencore’s Ravensworth operation employs around 800 people and is made up of an open cut mine and a coal handling and processing plant (CHPP).

According to Glencore Operations Manager Tony Morris, employee safety is the company’s top priority.

“We continue to investigate and implement new safety systems and controls to minimise the risk to our employees,” he said.

“The ultimate goal of Glencore’s SafeCoal program is the production of coal with the certainty there will be no fatalities or injuries to people working in or around our operations.”

Glencore CHPP Manager Phil Enderby has overall responsibility for the CHPP and said he took safety very seriously.

“One of our main safety concerns is the risk involved with the amount of maintenance that is required,” he said.

“There are many tasks that involve a lot of planning, assessment and control of risk, and we like to get the guys to think about why they are being safe.

“It’s not just about compliance – we want them to think about what they value in life outside of their work so these thoughts are with them when they are doing their risk assessments.

“They may have kids and be looking forward to a holiday with the family, and you can only do that if you are healthy.

“We encourage the guys to think about these things and remember there is always a good reason to keep safety front of mind.”

Recognising the prevalence of hand injuries in industrial environments – many of them due to the use of hammers – Glencore’s senior management issued a company-wide challenge to eliminate the use of hammers across all facilities.

Mr Enderby and the CHPP at Ravensworth was one of the first sites to take up the challenge and chose to focus on the maintenance of its screen media, which plays an important role in grading and dewatering coal from the mine.

Screen maintenance is scheduled every two weeks, whereby technicians get onto the screen decks to examine every single screen panel and assess the aperture size.

The panels are replaced according to the wear of the apertures to optimise the life of the panels without compromising screening efficiency.

The removal and replacement of screen panels typically involves the use of a 1.25kg hammer to drive the tip of a demolition screwdriver between panels to lever them out, allowing technicians to clean, inspect and replace them. Panels are then hammered back into place.

All this is done while the technician is lying in narrow areas on the screen deck.

Mr Enderby said the job was quite challenging and physical.

“The biggest problem is the ergonomics of crawling around in a small space over the screen deck,” he said. “The risk is associated with the use of hammers and other tools in an awkward position.”

The solution

Traditional screening media panels are held in place by the compression of the polyurethane surrounds which clip onto a mounting strip, hence the necessity to lever them out.

Finding a solution that didn’t rely on hammers for the installation and removal of screen media led Mr Enderby to Metso, which put together a prototype system.

With the new system, the polyurethane surrounds of the panels have been modified with a recess that fits around a locating block on a newly-designed mounting strip.

A tapered bottom on the polyurethane edge allows the panels to slip easily into place. A 1220mm-long top protection cover strip locks the panels into place with M16 hex head bolts, which are protected from impact from the coal by deflectors built into the strip.

Screening media panels are simply removed by unscrewing the retaining bolts with a battery-powered rattle gun, allowing technicians to lift o  the protection strips and

lift out the panels. This procedure is reversed for the replacement of panels.

To measure the success of the new screen media Mr Enderby set three criteria – improved safety, no compromise in efficiency and no impact on screen integrity.

“We had to assess whether it had a positive impact on safety; and it categorically has,” he said.

“We have virtually eliminated the use of hammers in screen maintenance, which is a very positive safety outcome for the guys.

“The efficiency hasn’t been compromised either. In fact, although it is hard to quantify, it is incrementally better than before because each screen panel has a slightly more open screen area.

“So far, there has also been no impact on screen integrity.”

Metso Screen Media Solutions Technical Manager East Coast Keith Blair said the impact of this new system was potentially revolutionary for the industry.

“What we’ve created in this hammerless screen media system is so simple that it can readily adapt to almost any modular screen in the mining industry,” he said.

“We see huge potential for improving safety by reducing both hammer strike and fatigue-related injuries during screen media change-outs for workers across all mining sectors.”

latest news

Opal mining lease cancelled over non-payment

The mining lease of an outback opal miner in New South Wales has been cancelled by the NSW Resources Regulator after it failed to pay a rehabilitation security deposit.

Read more

Rio launches new collection of rare Argyle pinks

Rio Tinto has launched a new collection of rare pink diamonds from its Argyle diamond mine in the east Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Read more

New technologies to accelerate resources industry

Harnessing new technologies in the mining, oil and gas industries will add $74 billion to the Australian economy by 2030 and create more than 80,000 new local jobs, according to a new report released today.

Read more

New minerals exploration technique wins award

Curtin University’s work in commercialising an innovative minerals exploration technique that uses sound waves to create a detailed 3D image of underground ore deposits was recognised at the Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia (KCA) annual conference in Sydney last week.

Read more

Northern Star ramps up Pogo throughput

Northern Star Resources will spend $43 million expanding the capacity of its Pogo gold mine in Alaska by 30 per cent.

Read more

Women in Resources award winners announced

The 2019 Women in Resources National Awards winners have been announced at a gala dinner hosted by the NSW Minerals Council at NSW Parliament and sponsored by Rio Tinto.

Read more

 

industry insight

The war on red tape

 

In the face of mounting regulations and drawn out approvals processes, the mining industry has

...
Products and Technology

Revolutionising conveyor health monitoring 

Taking real-time data and using it to enhance asset management, improve reliability and deliver ground-breaking predictive capabilities, Aura IQ is

...
People and Projects

A nickel renaissance 

It is 50 years since Western Australian nickel grabbed the world’s attention as a burgeoning commodity, and now new industries are placing it back on the global stage. 

Occupational Health and Safety

Improving the balance

Operating at the top of an industry recognised for continually pushing the envelope when it comes to export figures, it is unsurprising Rio Tinto would look to improve

...

interview

An industry ripe with opportunity

Beginning her career in the mining industry as a 19-year- old haul truck operator with no formal qualifications, Jodi...

Read more