Measuring safety gains – a safer workplace is a more efficient workplace

TED's powerful hydraulic lifting ability of up to 800kg improves fitters' work environment. Image: Nivek Industries

Many fitters no longer need to wrestle with and be under heavy machinery with the tracked elevating device (TED) at their service onsite. Australian Mining reports.

Nivek Industries has disrupted the way earthmoving maintenance operations are conducted across Australian mine sites. Its breakthrough equipment, tracked elevating device (TED), is designed by a fitter for fitters – Kevin Cant, Nivek founder.

TED is a battery operated, self-propelled, all terrain belly plate jack that removes mining fitters from the line of fire. Australian Mining speaks to Nivek operations manager and former maintenance fitter Jeff Merchant and general manager Derrick Cant about opportunities to improve onsite maintenance applications.

Reflecting on your years working on mine sites, are there any prevailing problems with maintenance practices at mine sites?

JM: Pinch points are everywhere and often can’t be engineered out, so they are a very big consideration when working on mining machinery.

What are the greatest hazards employees need to be mindful of when it comes to conducting maintenance operations?

JM: Some of the most dangerous things fitters must be aware of and plan prevention for on a daily basis are unplanned movements, hydraulic injections, crush injuries and unexpected release of stored energy. Unplanned movements can be caused by unseen hazards, unexpected weight distribution and the removal and replacement of components.

What are the common cases of injury and/or risks associated with these duties?

JM: Muscle strain and back injuries are all-too-common issues due to the sheer weight of components and tooling, and the awkward work environment being under machinery.

How does TED offer a solution?

JM: TED takes the weight of belly guards and many other components, removing a large amount of physical strain. The fact that TED is remote control-operated takes the danger out of the possibility of unplanned movements, as the fitter is out of the line of fire when lowering things like belly plates. The fact that TED is on tracks means that it can handle tough terrains, eliminating the need for fitters to be pushing and pulling whilst crawling on their hands and knees under machinery.

 

How does technology play a part in making innovation such as TED possible? Are there any breakthrough capabilities introduced by TED?

JM: Prior to TED, the ways of removing belly plates were dangerous and taxing on the body and outdated at best. With remote control technology, however, TED can be operated with fitters being a safe distance away from the danger zone. Although TED began as purely a safe way to remove belly plates, an array of attachments now allow TED to help with countless maintenance jobs. It offers the ongoing safety benefits of increased control and lowered manual handling.

DC: Although there were no ground-breaking technologies developed for TED, technology has still played an important part in the design and final capabilities of the machine. The wireless radio system allows users to stay at a safe distance, the skid steer track system allows the deployment of TED into the field, and the combination and layout of the scissor lift hydraulic system allows for an extremely low profile – essential for belly plate removal.

How do you measure TED’s success in mine sites?

JM: As far as we know, there has not been a single fatality or loss of a limb with the use of TED so far as we are aware. In our opinion, one serious injury or life lost in a work environment is one too many.  It keeps my mates working in the pits safe. The availability of all TED’s attachments mean that TED can make a myriad of jobs quicker and easier. The reduction in downtime experienced by most workshops with TEDs is definitely impressive and supports smoother running of the mining operation overall.

DC: TED’s success can easily be measured by the amount of positive feedback we receive on our social media platforms. The constant requests for additional attachments is a clear indication that maintenance staff are using TED and can see benefits the system provides, as they would like to use it for more applications. Although TED’s biggest benefit is gained through increased safety, its efficiency gains and cost-savings are also enormous. TED reduces the maintenance time of operations, required man-hours and workplace fatigue. By being deployable in the field, TED can save hours of vehicle downtime and float costs.

How has the sector’s attitude towards worker safety shifted in recent years? What has changed since?

JM: Mine site attitudes appear to have shifted over the past 20 years. Rather than just trying to prevent critical and life-threatening injuries, they seem to be looking to workers’ future health, and often times attempting to prevent repetitive strain injury (RSI), back injuries and long-term injuries – all so that workers can enjoy their lives and families outside of work.

DC: Workplace safety has been a major part of mining culture for quite some time now. However, there are still some tasks that can be better mitigated against – belly plate and suspended load removal/installation being a prime example – especially in the field where maintenance staff had to use alternative methods.

This article also appears in the June 2019 edition of Australian Mining.

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