TYRE fitting in the mining industry is a tough job, with wheel and tyre combinations weighing many tonnes, bolts needing to be torqued to hundreds of foot-pounds and some fittings located metres off the ground.
Fitters are often required to hold heavy tooling overhead in awkward positions for wheel, tyre and suspension maintenance.
Despite following industry best practice, worker fatigue and Lost Time Injuries (LTIs) are still serious issues that need to be mitigated in the tyre bays of modern mining operations.
They say a problem shared is a problem halved, and this certainly rings true for several companies that have been working towards creating a world-class tyre facility at Bengalla’s multi-million tonne coal operation in the Hunter Valley Coalfields of NSW.
Bengalla tyre supervisor Peter Santarossa approached Nivek Industries when he heard it was in the development process of a system to help tyre fitters with the gruelling task of holding heavy rattle guns and torque multiplication equipment.
This was one step in a wider collaboration with international consultancy Klinge, and tool supply company Persas.
Each company brought its own area of expertise to the table and worked with the other parties to deliver the best solution – namely, a modern, safe and worker friendly tyre bay.
Nivek Industries is well known in the industry for its Tracked Elevating Device (TED) and the incredible Lift Assist Arm (LA40). These two products alone have brought a new dimension to fatigue and injury reduction, and productivity boosts in the mining maintenance arena.
So, it was little surprise that Peter reached out to them, when he heard they were working on a stand which could hold and raise the LA40 arm to a height of 3m and allow heavy tooling to be supported for the removal of wheel and suspension bolts in the tyre bay.
Several sites to initially adopt the LA40 technology last year quickly realised that the fatigue reduction benefits they were already seeing in the mechanical workshop could also be appreciated by the tyre bay if there was a suitable stand available.
It didn’t take long for other sites to see the value in this and get involved in the design consultation process.
Nivek Industries responded quickly to industry interest and gave several mines and tyre fitting companies the chance to send their engineers, tyre fitters and safety officers to comment on some prototype stands, pinpointing what was and wasn’t important to them.
The result of all this was the Lift Assist Stand – a self-propelled, telescopic stand able to safely support a number of tools from ground level to a height of 3m.
Nivek has also been working with the team at Persas to develop custom attachments to hold the range of tools they’re supplying for Bengalla’s new tyre bay.
New attachments have been designed to ensure that fitters can use the full gamut of heavy air tools and bars they normally handle manually on the Lift Assist Arm – a prospect everyone involved was very excited about.
The end result of this highly productive collaboration is a total solution that engineers are happy with, fitters actually want to use, health and safety officers are satisfied with and mining and tyre fitting companies are keen to use for all these reasons – with the added bonus of increased productivity per shift.
We asked Peter Santarossa a number or questions regarding the end result of this collaboration – the Lift Assist Stand – and the positive impact it would have on Bengalla’s new tyre bay.
AMR: What aspects of the Lift Assist Stand will help make the Bengalla tyre bay a world class facility?
PS: We believe that the Lift Assist Stand will allow us to cover the full range of tyre and wheel maintenance requirements and take the heavy labour out of the work when unbolting wheel assemblies.
AMR: Will the Lift Assist Stand make the job more attractive to apprentices and improve staff retention rates in the mine tyre facility?
PS: I believe it will genuinely improve staff retention rates and improve the overall longevity of tyre fitters in general.
AMR: What specific areas of WHS relating to tyre fitting and maintenance will the Lift Assist Stand improve?
PS: Where the strain of tyre fitting work is hard and heavy is in the ergonomics of holding weighted tools in less than ideal body positioning, while trying to reach the fixings of the wheel assembly.
This normally forces the tyre technician into an awkward body shape and this is when they are vulnerable to injury and or fatigue.
AMR: What are the best aspects of the Lift Assist Stand from a management point of view?
PS: I would have to say, coupled with the Lift Assist Arm, the versatility and range of movement. The fact that we will be able to set the stand up with a personnel platform or stand and still easily reach all the wheel fixings is a huge bonus.
AMR: Do you see the Lift Assist Stand reducing fatigue, LTI injuries and worker’s compensation claims?
PS: Absolutely, I believe it will assist us in reducing hand injuries as well as back and shoulder issues long term, as it means the technician has a far reduced need – if at all – to place their hands near any pinch or crushing points in the rim and wheel base when using rattling or torqueing equipment.
Kevin Thompson, Business Development Manager at Persas, shares his perspective on the Lift Assist Stand and LA40 Arm in relation to tool handling.
AMR: Which features of the Lift Assist Stand are you most interested in from your company’s point of view?
KT: For us, the ability of the Lift Assist to compensate for the weight of the heavy tooling we sell into heavy industry, is a huge benefit. It makes it easier for us to sell heavy duty tooling, typically when used in awkward positions.
Even if a tool isn’t particularly heavy – if you’re doing up 46 bolts at a time, or 70 bolts on a wheel arch, that repetitive action can be fatiguing and can ultimately lead to injury.
AMR: How do you see the Lift Assist Stand enhancing functionality in tyre bays?
KT: It makes it easier and safer to use the tools that we sell. We have seen some clients opting for more mature fitters due to experience they bring to the job. The benefits of being able to support them with the correct tooling, so that they finish a day’s work without feeling as though they’ve been through a war, is the best way of looking after them.
By preventing injuries, you’re actually extending their productivity in the short term and their ability to contribute to the workforce, while also bringing all their valuable experience.
AMR: How do you expect working with Nivek Industries will benefit your customers?
KT: As soon as we walk on-site, one of the foremost questions that is asked, is ‘how much does our tooling weigh?’ Having access to the Lift Assist Range, gives us a solution to the tooling weight; it also has the potential to reduce some jobs from a two-person handle, to being safe and manageable by just one person.
As an international consultancy, tasked with designing and implementing heavy industrial solutions, it was interesting to gain some insight from Davin Faux from Klinge about how he saw the Lift Assist System benefiting tyre facilities.
AMR: How does your technology work alongside the Lift Assist Stand and power tools?
DF: Klinge Holdings Pty Ltd’s tyre management systems solutions cover all elements of tyre management. One such element is our auditing and assessment solution – TyreArm (Tyre Application Risk Management). When assessing some of the manual handling aspects of the tyre technician’s role, the LAS solution scored highly within TyreArm due to its ability to minimise or eliminate manual handling risk associated with heavy tooling, large heavy cleats, etc.
AMR: Are you expecting any improvements in worker productivity and reduced repair times as a result of fitters using the Lift Stand?
DF: The greatest benefit will be the long-term safety of the tyre technicians. Manual handling risk (particularly relating to the Hitachi trucks) is significantly reduced. Once the Lift Assist System is embedded into day-to-day practices then the efficiencies will come.
AMR: What are your thoughts on the collaboration of all parties concerned to arrive at a world-class solution for the tyre facility at Bengalla?
DF: The exciting part of this story is that after our original meeting at the Nivek premises, we have since brought multiple stakeholders together to form a team that is focused on one thing – the elimination of significant manual handling for tyre technicians. That total solution also incorporates tyre technician input and was developed locally in the Hunter Valley. How good is that?
Now that the ‘model’ has been established, there is no reason why similar lines of thinking could not be applied to other aspects of the tyre technician’s role. Anyone who understands tyre maintenance technology will tell you that advancements in this area are overdue and very much welcomed.
The Lift Assist Stand is very close to completion and first units will be on their way to local mines any day now for use by some very happy tyre fitters.
To see how the story progresses, stay in touch with Nivek Industries’ social media.
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