Safety in mining through measurement and training

Australia’s mining industry has some of the most stringent safety standards in place to ensure all workers return home to their families unscathed.

To uphold these safety standards on site while still maintaining high production rates, operators must use measurement devices for their systems and processes.

Sensor and teaching equipment specialist Bestech provides a range of measurement sensors to assist with production and reliability and training equipment to ensure safe and efficient work place practices.

The measurement devices include displacement, strain, temperature, pressure and load to name a few for the mining industry.

In terms of monitoring of systems such as hydraulic equipment, materials handling and infrastructure, Bestech managing director Sam Bhasin stressed the importance of using the right measurement sensor system to minimise production losses.

“For example, if operators want to optimise the loading on a conveyor, these devices can take measurements for that,” Bhasin told Australian Mining.

Bhasin said measuring devices ensure conveyor belts and other processes and equipment are more efficiently used and help increase their longevity.

He also reinforced the importance of selecting the right measurement device to deliver the most efficient loading process – and warned operators need to be careful when making a selection, particularly in an attempt to save costs.

“There are lots of measurement devices available and sometimes you might feel like cutting a corner and just buying the cheapest one,” Bhasin said.

“If there is a breakdown of critical machinery or infrastructure, some companies could be losing up to a million dollars a day in production loss and often a risk to life.”

Despite this warning, Bhasin said the right sensor could also be the cheapest but it is still impetrative that the correct one is chosen. He said Bestech offered 10 different sensor technology solutions just for displacement and based on the particular application, the company’s application engineers can help select the most appropriate one to enhance productivity within their operations.

Training and simulation

For a safe work environment, Bestech also offers training solutions for both hydraulics and pneumatics systems.

Bhasin stressed the need for proper training as even a small hydraulics leak can have serious detrimental effects on both workers and the company they work for.

“People have been known to lose a finger or a hand and that could have been easily prevented if they understood what the dangers are,” he said.

“How we manage and prevent hydraulics leaks is very important and unfortunately there is a lack of understanding in general in this particular field. Ensuring stored hydraulic energy is safely discharged is a must for the safety for any hydraulic maintenance program.”

The hydraulics and pneumatics training solutions Bestech provides are suitable for miners at any stage of their working life; whether they are trainees or have been working in the mining industry for several years.

“We conduct courses which can be done on site too and can be a full five-day course for people who are new or people who have been in the industry for a long time and can learn a lot from this,” Bhasin said.

The students are taught how to use and work with hydraulics services and given any other training required on a mine site.

One device the company uses for training is the Fluid Power Training Institute (FTPI) hydraulics training system.

“We use good quality hardware in these training systems rather than using alternative cheap ones so that they last a long time in an industrial environment. There is a strong emphasis on safety practices,” he said.

Bhasin said the students learn on a real system to understand exactly how each component works.

The Simlog heavy equipment simulation of cranes, off-highway trucks, material handlers, mining trucks, bull dozer and others are ideal as they allow students to train without additional costs associated with having to use real equipment.

Bhasin said it helped train students faster in the lead up to using the real equipment.

“When they work with the simulator for some time for their initial training, they learn much quicker when they move to a real life, say, bulldozer or hydraulic excavator or a forklift,” he said.

The safety benefits, apart from cost benefits, are also evident as trainees do not have to constantly use million-dollar equipment for training as they learn in a safe simulated environment.

“It’s a much safer environment when somebody doesn’t know anything about any of these reloaders or bulldozers, etcetera,” he said.

Bhasin added that they first work with a particular system or machine on a simulator, which gives them almost real-life experience so they know what to do before getting on a real one. By starting on a simulator, good habits and work practices can be taught with instructor’s advice as they go.  This provides a much more efficient training system and a safer operator in the long run.

He also mentioned the simulator’s use of high-quality hardware to give the students a more authentic experience when dealing with controls.

“The training systems are designed to the highest standards and exceed what the Australian standards will ask for,” Bhasin said. “Therefore trainees are getting the most appropriate knowledge on how to work with hydraulics, pneumatics or heavy equipment.”

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