Newcastle local tradesman Kevin Cant, founder of Nivek Industries, has developed a new type of mobile belly jack, the TED, which is helping to improve safety for mining maintenance workers in Australia and globally.
It was while working on a Rio Tinto mine that Kevin Cant was inspired to work on a safer way to change belly plates on CAT bulldozers, after a near miss incident.
Cant had been assigned the job of changing belly plates in the field at night, using slings and cumalongs to lower the plate; however a slipped sling resulted in a belly plate being dropped, which narrowly missed Cant on the way down.
Although there were already air operated belly jacks on the market, these were designed mainly for workshop use, so Cant set about designing a hydraulic, track-mounted belly jack that could operate in rugged terrain.
Another Newcastle tradesman, Tim Lightfoot had already started his safety-oriented company MITS (Mining Industrial Trade Suppliers), and became involved to commercialise the new product.
Since coming onto the market 18 months ago the TED belly plate jack has since received a lot of attention, around Australia and on the US market.
So far a number of companies have picked up the device, including Theiss (all sites nationally), Glencore, Rio Tinto, Peabody Energy, Yancoal and Anglo-American.
"We struck pretty hard last year after the AIMEX trade show," Lightfoot said.
"When I was a contractor I travelled around the Hunter Valley quite a bit, so I had a lot of contacts on different sites, which made it a lot easier when it came to getting people on board."
The jack, which has a WLL of 800kg, is remote controlled meaning the worker doesn't have to be anywhere near it during operation.
It can be locked out while in use to prevent operation while a worker is using it as a safety lifting device.
The track-mount system functions like a skid steer, so it's easy to manoeuvre into position.
"It's just a damned good product," Lightfoot said, searching for a way to explain its fast success.
"Anyone with half a clue, who knows what they're doing out there, knows that this is really going to improve their safety.
"It cuts costs in half; it takes 25 minutes to change a set of belly plates using TED, but up to 70 minutes using the old way."