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Fall protection for the mining industry

Supplier: Capital Safety
26 February, 2013

The mining industry faces many complex challenges when endeavouring to keep its workers safe.

Day to day activities straddle varied roles and volatile environments, both above and below ground. Specialised fall protection equipment has been developed to keep mine workers as safe as possible when maintaining heavy duty transportation equipment such as loaders, trucks and other machinery.

The mining industry faces many complex challenges when endeavouring to keep its workers safe. Day to day activities straddle varied roles and volatile environments, both above and below ground. Specialised fall protection equipment has been developed to keep mine workers as safe as possible when maintaining heavy duty transportation equipment such as loaders, trucks and other machinery.

A safe servicing program not only maximises workers' personal safety but it saves the company money in the long run: well maintained equipment works better and lasts for longer. A large amount of heavy duty machinery and equipment is on site at every mine location, all of which requires regular servicing.

It's important to remember that a person can always fall through a gap or trip over awkward equipment even if they are not working at a great height.

Before maintaining mining equipment, the potential hazards involved need to be identified, assessed, evaluated and then controlled accordingly. A site specific fall protection plan will help to minimise risks.

This might include identifying what potential hazards are involved with the task, and what fall protection equipment is necessary. Relevant training in the use of the equipment is also required to ensure all users are competent.

When using fall arrest access systems, workers need to ensure they maintain connection to a device at all times that they are off the ground. There is no such thing as a safe distance to fall. The secure anchorage must be strong enough to hold the weight of the family car, equal to at least 15kN (1500kg), for a single person. When combined with a properly fitted full body harness, employees can limit the potential for injuries when accessing difficult-to-reach equipment.

Case Study


Project: Safely servicing and maintaining heavy duty mining equipment.

Solution: BI-SALA FlexiGuard C-Frame Rail Fall Arrest System.

Komatsu Australia's facilities cover the whole of Queensland, from Brisbane in the south to Cairns in the north and west to Mt. Isa, including heavy duty mining equipment such as loaders, excavators and bulldozers. As a major manufacturer and supplier of mining and construction equipment, the company fosters an ongoing program of continuous improvement in safety performance.

Expansion of its Queensland mining, construction and utility operations in 2008 further highlighted the need to be able to safely service and maintain the equipment. Serious injuries can be sustained by falls of only a metre and many pieces of equipment require the maintenance worker to be several metres off the ground.

Diesel fitters had nothing to secure themselves to when climbing over the equipment in order to service it and this potentially represented a real concern for the company.

Brett Gesch, Komatsu's North Queensland Regional OHSE Manager is well aware of the paramount importance of ensuring the staff's safety at all times. He asserts that it's impossible to place a high enough importance on the safety of Komatsu's employees and subcontractors.

"A single fall can lead to serious injury or death, and cost tens of thousands of dollars in compensation payments. Prevention is definitely better than cure when it comes to our workers' safety."

Gesch contacted Phil Harris, Safety Specialist at BOC, and in turn they brought in Greg Peterson, Capital Safety's Systems Manager. Together they undertook a full review of operations at the Mackay site, taking into account the types and sizes of machinery regularly requiring building or repair.

They selected the DBI-SALA FlexiGuard C-Frame Rail Fall Arrest System as the best overall option, and an initial order was placed, customised specifically for Komatsu to suit their needs, in terms of size, location and portability.

The system allows Komatsu's diesel fitters to move freely about the equipment whilst they remain safely secured to the overhead adjustable rail. The use of a self retracting lifeline on a rail trolley allows them to complete the required work all over the equipment unencumbered.

An additional advantage for Komatsu is that the self retracting lifeline eliminates any free fall distance to less than half a metre, so the fitter can feel totally secure whilst doing his work. The system is fully fall-arrest rated and can be used in conjunction with the existing fall arrest equipment that is used at the Branch.

Each one comes standard with a single track rail and two individual man-rated rail trolleys for anchorage of the Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS). In addition, the DBI-SALA system allows maximum adjustment of the horizontal rail to more than 11 metres, depending on the model, with a safe working length of more than 9.5 metres and a width of more than 3.5 metres.

Gesch adds that another factor behind the installation decision was its simplicity and portability.

"The system was very straightforward to commission. It is easily moved by hand around the site and can be placed by the diesel fitter to provide maximum protection very precisely. We are able to schedule a detailed maintenance programme with the same free standing C-Frame Rail system for several pieces of equipment."

After initially commissioning one piece of equipment, Komatsu now have a total of four units across their Branches. Anthony Crowley, Komatsu Australias General Manager Human Resources, agrees that when it comes to safety, the system provides real peace of mind for staff.

"We cannot rest until we have eradicated all incidents that cause or have the potential to cause harm to individuals and potential loss to the organisation."

Peterson is very pleased with the results at Komatsu so far, having personally overseen the commissioning and ordering of the equipment.

"We were able to pinpoint precisely the quantity and size requirements for each site. The system's combined simplicity of a horizontal rail and trolley system with a portable support structure provides reliable fall protection where it's needed, when it's needed. It's safety from the ground up."

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