Processing

?Smallest of quarries? devises innovative, award-winning solution

The IQA’s prestigious Gold Hard Hat Award recognises a quarrying site’s contribution to the advancement of occupational health and safety (OHS) in the quarrying industry.

The contribution can be a single suggestion, invention or implementation relating to a quarry’s equipment, processes, training, safety management, industry representation or continued excellent performance over a period of time that improves OHS in the broader extractive industry.

In 2016, the Hy-Tec Grants Head Quarry in Bonny Hills, New South Wales, was the recipient of the IQA’s Gold Hard Hat Award.

{{image2-a:r-w:200}}Grants Head Quarry has been operating since the early 1980s, when the local council and various contractors managed it as a “borrow” pit on a campaign basis.

In 1995 a development consent was issued to Hurd Haulage to operate Grants Head as a licensed quarry operation. In 2006 Hy-Tec purchased the Hurd Haulage business that comprised not just Grants Head Quarry but Dunbogan Sand Quarry and Yarrabee Road Hard Rock Quarry, and Hurd’s associated truck and dog tipper fleet.

Typically, a small team operates the Grants Head site for regular production and sales. The site features an excavator that feeds blasted rock to a mobile processing plant fleet, including a jaw crusher, a mobile screen and a radial stacker, with oversize material being sent to a cone crusher and recirculated back to the screen.

“The geology of the site is a massive conglomerate resource that is approximately 50m thick, predominantly comprised of igneous and metamorphic large pebble rock imbedded in a sand/silt matrix,” Daniel Reed, a strategy and business development analyst for Hy-Tec and the former quarry manager at Grants Head, explained. Reed said the site usually produced various roadbase and fill products.

“The roadbase products are usually produced to meet local council specifications,” Reed said. “Our product predominantly goes into Port Macquarie Hastings Council and Kempsy Council roads, with local developers also consuming their fair share.

“From time to time, as required, the site produces material that meets some RMS product specifications.”

While its roadbase and sub-base materials are predominantly supplied to local council roads, in recent years the quarry has also had some input into the development of the M1 upgrade in the NSW mid-north coast region.

EXTINGUISHER DILEMMA

{{image3-a:r-w:200}}On a visit to Grants Head Quarry, a mines inspector noted that every quarry he visited that operated mobile crushing plant had the same OHS issue: the fire extinguisher for any mobile crusher is attached to the plant itself. If a mobile crusher did catch fire, it would require someone to move towards the fire to obtain the extinguisher.

This is obviously not the safest option, especially if the fire is near where the extinguisher is stored.

From this feedback, the Grants Head Quarry team explored the concept of creating a centralised location in the quarry to hold all fire extinguishers for the immediate surrounding crushing plant. It would be easily accessible, more efficient and a safer option in the event of an emergency.

The concept grew further to encompass the following requirements:

  • It would be a fire extinguisher station.
  • It would also be a portable safety station that could address most emergency situations, whether people, plant or environment. It would also store personal protective equipment (PPE) and be a platform to complete required safety paperwork and procedures.
  • It could handle the harsh conditions of a quarry environment.
  • It would be a one-stop central point for staff and contractors to use for all emergencies.

As a result, Grants Head Quarry’s Emergency Response and Safety Station – or the ERSS – was conceived and developed.

PROVEN OHS OUTCOMES

The key issue of removing the need to move towards a fire to obtain a fire extinguisher was achieved through this innovation. The ERSS provides a significantly safer alternative in combating small fires on mobile crushing and screening plants, and around the site in general.

“Expanding the ERSS to house other means of combating oil spills and injuries, encouraging the use of PPE and completion of paperwork, etc, has also resulted in improving many environmental and safety related issues that were not initially considered,” Reed said.

{{image4-a:r-w:200}}“By incorporating this extended functionality into the ERSS, it has provided a much better solution than if these functions were separate pieces of plant.”

Some of the ERSS’s key features include:

  • Easily accessible fire extinguishers for mobile crushing plant.
  • A yellow wheelie bin spill kit.
  • A portable first aid kit, with eye wash bottle.
  • An emergency air horn.
  • A PPE kit (comprising ear plugs, glasses, riggers’ gloves, dust mask, etc).
  • An isolation padlock station and lock-out/tag-out (LOTO) register.
  • A paperwork safety station and work bench with blank SWMS (safe work method statements), permit to work, hot work, etc.
  • A portable, skid-mounted unit that can be lifted either via forklift or telehandler, or using an approved lifting lug and sling. Engineers were consulted to ensure lifting points were adequately designed and built.
  • Dust seals on cabinet doors.

The station is base-heavy so it cannot be tipped over, and it has a sturdily built structure and roof to handle quarry life. It is also painted in heavy-duty “safety red” paint. The unit stands out so site-based personnel, and even outsiders to the quarry, know where to go in an emergency and what it is there to achieve.

Fire extinguishers fit for use on mobile plant are usually of the powder type. When attached to the constant vibrating plant, the powder usually compacts in the cylinder over time. This means the extinguishers have to be changed out regularly, as they no longer pass the inspection test and, worse, may fail when needed. Removing the extinguisher from the vibrating plant and having it stored on the ERSS removes this issue, providing longer life expectancy of the extinguishers and, importantly, the knowledge that they will work at time of need.

IMPACT ON-SITE

The ERSS has been beneficial to almost all the site’s daily operations. According to Reed, it’s a “one-stop safety shop” that’s always close at hand to quarrying operations. It is useful for the completion of paperwork on the quarry floor (rather than in the office) and it encourages workers to use PPE on-site.

{{image5-a:r-w:200}}“As the ERSS is rolled out to various Hy-Tec quarry sites, workers will get to know exactly what it is and what it is there for,” Reed said. “If workers move between quarry sites to meet operational needs, they will already know in an emergency what the ERSS stands for and what its capabilities are.”

Continual consultation with quarry workers was undertaken during the development of the ERSS, to ensure it met workers’ needs and allowed for feedback on improvements.

Post-development, a mines inspector was invited to view the ERSS, to provide consultation on how an inspector might view the unit if he/she were to see one working in a quarry. The feedback from the inspector was very positive.

“The ERSS has proven to be a very cost-effective innovation,” Reed said. “The levels of improvement gained in the ability to respond to a safety/environmental emergency situation, and the encouragement to use PPE and complete safety documentation by having this unit so close to work activities, far outweighs the financial cost of having one of these units on-site.”

GOLD HARD HAT AWARD

Reed said he and his quarry team didn’t set out to win awards when they developed the ERSS.

“To be honest, during development of the ERSS, we just saw a need to develop something to address a serious issue that we knew was a common occurrence yet we had never seen a solution to, and we wanted to make our operations a safer workplace,” Reed said.

{{image6-a:r-w:200}}“The fact that we were able to actually develop an outstanding solution that went above and beyond meeting our initial needs was satisfaction enough.

“To then have it recognised by Hy-Tec, by the CCAA [the ERSS won the 2016 CCAA NSW Health and Safety Innovation Award] and by the IQA to take out the prestigious national Gold Hard Hat Award, it left Hy Tec as a company feeling very proud and honoured, and it left the Grants Head staff ecstatic, knowing that their hard work was recognised.”

Reed was keen to also acknowledge the input of various people involved in the development of the ERSS. “This project was the result of the collaboration of a few very key people who work at the Grants Head Quarry: Glenn Blair, who was the quarry supervisor there at the time [Blair has since taken on Reed’s role and is now effectively the quarry/production manager of Grants Head and Dunbogan quarries], and Paul Kidd, who is Hy-Tec’s mechanical and contractor fitter. Paul was literally able to pull the ERSS together by his hands, sweat and ingenuity!

“What it really showed was that even the smallest of quarries can come up with great solutions and positive safety initiatives when they are encouraged, and when a culture of improving safety and awareness is fostered within a company.”

To find out more about the IQA Gold Hard Hat Award and to nominate a company for its work in developing innovations that promote greater safety on-site, click here

Leave a Reply