Winning ideas from the West

THERE’S much lip service paid to innovation and it’s usually tied to the bottom line, but when it comes to safety and health: innovation is priceless.

Innovations showcased at the recent Safety and Health Innovation Awards run by the The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia were an excellent example of how great ideas became innovations with benefits in the workplace.

Take the overall winner: HWE Mining.

Prompted by a near fatality, HWE mining developed a new, safe way of removing a worn down saver sub from the spindle when drill rods are attached or removed.

The outcome of their endeavours was the insertion of a compression ring that takes on the load from the tightening of the threads, and can be burned out instantly to relieve the connection. This modification provided a positive coupling and a safe, low energy decoupling of the drill string components. With safety, the new method avoids heavy lifting, working in a congested area and having to contend with excessive potential energy, hydraulic power and impact forces.

As a gesture of confidence all slap spanners (the 15kg tool originally used to do the job) have all been destroyed!

Great ideas are in abundance at Alcoa World Alumina Australia. The company earned two awards: a Highly Commended and a Commended.

The Highly Commended Award was given for a hydraulic steering filter housing for drive haul trucks.

Alcoa’s two Western Australian bauxite mines, Huntly and Willowdale, operate a fleet of Komatsu 730E electric drive haul trucks. Changing the hydraulic steering filter at regular service intervals had resulted in several finger and hand injuries to maintenance personnel when the filter housing drops as it is unscrewed. The solution came from a mechanical fitter who performed the task and was aware of the potential hazards. Through the employee suggestion scheme, he proposed modifying the existing housing and putting a threaded cap on the bottom. The benefit was elimination of finger and hand crush injuries from the weight of the falling filter housing.

Finger, hand and arm lacerations from the burred metal caused by the jaws of the pipe wrench have also been eliminated and slipping pipe wrenches are outdated now that a hexagonal spanner is used to loosen the end cap.

Alcoa World Alumina Australia also picked up a Commended Award for a bearing lifting jig. For many years, Alcoa’s fixed plant maintenance personnel have utilised webbed or wire slings wrapped around the circumference of large bearings to lift them into position, or remove them from crushing and conveying equipment.

New or used bearings are nearly always covered in grease and when combined with the smooth metal surface of the bearing, web or wire slings are susceptible to slipping which creates significant potential for serious injury.

The bearing lifting jig had the hierarchy of safety control applied and through engineering design, the hazards with the previous method were eliminated.

A vehicle safety and speed monitoring system from The Dampier Bunbury Pipeline and Westnet Energy partnership earned an Industry Choice Award.

Their ‘Vehicle Safety and Speed Monitoring System’ (VSSMS) assists in improving driving behaviour on unsealed roads which had been identified as a key risk to safety performance. Vehicles’ VSSMS send messages by satellite to a central unit where the location, date, time and speed data can be viewed on a computer both in table format and graphically superimposed on Google Earth Pro map and satellite imagery. The VSSMS provides the driver with a Panic Alarm button for emergencies and is used as a tool to modify behaviour, improving compliance with the project speed limits.

The list of innovations goes on. However, I’ve run out of space, but Australian Mining will explore these innovations in future issues.

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