Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology in Australia has turned a near miss into a safer transportation solution for drill rods on service vehicles.
The new racks are quickly establishing themselves as the gold standard across the competitive Australian mining industry, with Sandvik Australia receiving inquiries from a diverse range of customers. Although the new rod rack design may be a success story, it’s one that began in unfortunate circumstances. Deep underground in a South Australian gold mine, a drill rod came loose from the rack on a Sandvik vehicle. It fell forward before rebounding off the rock and back towards the cabin. The drill rod smashed the windscreen but narrowly missed the service technician who was driving the vehicle. By accident and design Although no one was hurt, the serious incident demanded instant attention from Sandvik. “We immediately began a thorough investigation, and it soon became apparent such incidents had happened before but gone unreported,” explains Darren Male, rock tools operations manager at Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology.
About Byrnecut Australia
Founded in 1987 just months before the stock market crash, Byrnecut weathered the storm to establish itself in a challenging market and become the largest underground mining contractor in Australia. Current projects include all level and vertical development production activities at the Prominent Hill mine, and decline, lateral and vertical development stope production using long hole and air leg methods at the Jundee mine. In addition to working as lead contractor at gold, copper and nickel mines, the group also offers specialist shotcreting and shaftlining services for mining and civil clients, raise drilling and box holing services to meet any vertical development requirements, and a range of multidisciplinary engineering services.
Along with Mark Bannister, product sales and support for underground hard rock mining at Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, Male began to identify potential solutions. The team worked with external engineers and manufacturers to develop the optimum design. “It was one of those projects without an obvious solution, so we had to consider many different possibilities before we arrived at the final design through a process of elimination,” Male says. “One of our biggest challenges underground is weight, so the solution had to be light yet load-bearing.” A product of more than six months of design and engineering work, the new design enables service technicians to safely and securely transport drill rods without their sliding around or falling off the vehicle to which they are attached. The primary feature is a unique locking mechanism that secures the rod racks to the frame, which is in turn attached to the tray of the service vehicle. The solution is available as a flat-packed bolt-on package to existing Sandvik vehicles.
Unlike any previous rack used by Sandvik, the new solution is certified for road use throughout Australia, extending the potential application.Sandvik is a drilling supplier for Byrnecut Australia, the country’s largest underground mining contractor, at five sites across Australia. The customer was pleased with the new rack’s benefits. Mitigating risks “There’s reduced risk that with sudden braking, the rods will move or fall forward off the vehicle,” says Peter Hallman, Byrnecut Australia Safety, Environment, Quality and Training manager. “The rods are double-clamped in place and strapped down with no chance of them moving, but also the design of the rod holder helps reduce the potential for manual handling injuries,” he says. Byrnecut Australia is happy that every possible outcome has been considered and that running these vehicles on their sites should help reduce risk of the original incident reoccurring. Byrnecut takes a pragmatic approach when such incidents occur. When it comes to safety, the company seeks to make continuous improvements over time. “Although this type of incident is rare, it’s important to understand that they may happen from time to time,” Hallman says. “Risk assessments are not foolproof. We try to identify every possible outcome and mitigate the risk of anything happening. This process involves many people, but unexpected occurrences can still happen. What’s important is for the relevant party to take responsibility for the situation, quickly resolve it, and learn from it to prevent any recurrence.”
Knowledge sharing For Byrnecut, working with contractors who take safety seriously is paramount. “What we expect of any contractor is a focus on safety through their own safety management system,” Hallman says. “Part of our process of appointing contractors is to review their systems and to check that they are compliant with what we are trying to achieve. This includes risk-assessing all equipment on site and seeing that they have processes in place for investigations, reporting of hazards and reporting of any issues identified during the risk-assessment processes.” Sandvik has proved its commitment to safety not just for itself but for the industry as a whole, following its decision not to patent the new rod rack solution. The benefits of the new rod racks are something Male and Bannister believe all sites, customers, contractors and competitors should have access to, improving site safety for everyone.