Safer Quarry Operations

The quarry & aggregates industry demands durable and reliable machines with no unscheduled downtime. The equipment is selected to maximize uptime and productivity at the lowest cost per ton and maintaining a safe work environment is critical. Let’s look at three key elements that can impact safety: the equipment, the operator and the site itself.

EQUIPMENT

Well designed equipment, such as large wheel loaders and off-highway trucks for example, provide safety features built-in: low effort climbing and three points of contact with stairway instead of vertical ladders, perforated plated walk-ways and stairs instead of glued strips, handrails positioned to provide easy access (ex: for cleaning windows). Operator visibility can be enhanced with rear view cameras on the cutting edge, mirrors, object detection systems. An adjustable seat will offer a better visibility and will help reduce the strain on the back and neck of the operator. Isolated cab mounts and seat mounted steering controls as well as integrated steering and transmission control functions, air conditioning and electric windows provide a more comfortable environment.

Operators sometimes come from other countries and should therefore be able to select their preferred language on the cab monitor displays. Other cab features to look for are Roll Over Protection System (ROPS) now compulsory in many countries as well as Falling Object Protective Structure (FOPS) and Falling Object Guards (FOGS) that further protect cab operators from falling debris.

Noise has a real impact on operator fatigue and manufacturers such as Caterpillar have worked to reduce the sound level inside the cab to a lower decibel than the human voice, as in the 988K and 990K wheel loaders for example.

In dusty quarry environments, a pressurized operator station with positive filtration limits the exposure to hazardous fumes and silica dust.

OPERATORS

Operators are trained to conduct daily equipment safety & inspection walk-arounds to identify issues. The safety checks should include tyre pressure and a visual inspection for tyre cuts as well as ground level checks for fluid levels on transmission/torque converter, hoist/brake hydraulic engine oil, diesel fuel and engine coolant.

All operators should be properly trained before starting work in a quarry to most efficiently operate the equipment, and understand how their driving can impact safety, fuel consumption and the life of the tyres.

THE SITE

Haul Roads
The proper design of haul roads in a quarry has a significant impact on safety as trucks must be able to travel with their target payload in safe conditions, at the rated speed, in all weather conditions, day and night. Changes in weather condition such as rain in dryer climates for example, can be a hazard. To ensure a continuous and safe hauling, a quarry road cannot be left to chance and has to be carefully designed. This means crowned straight sections, super-elevated curves, and safety berms with drainage ditches on both sides, constructed with well graded sub-base material. Where haul roads support two-way traffic, a minimum of three truck widths is recommended for the straight road sections. For the corners and curves, at least four truck widths are recommended to allow trucks to pass each other safety without reducing their speed, with or without load. A good haul road also allows the operator to have a better visibility of the site and to avoid blind spots. If this is not possible, then the truck speed must be reduced accordingly and speed limit signs displayed and enforced. Safety berms guard the haul roads and it is recommended they measure at least one-half of the wheel height of the largest truck in the fleet.

A well designed and maintained haul road helps avoid accidents, reduce fuel consumption, increase tyre and machine components life and allow higher speed and therefore shorter cycle times.

Traffic Flow
Traffic flow creates a potential danger area for daily operators and job site visitors. Signage must be in good condition and all employees and visitors need to be trained on the correct traffic flow and abide by the rules of the site. In quarry operations, heavy equipment normally has the right of way. Right of way is pre-determined by the site management and communicated to all individuals using the haul roads.

Lack of adequate visibility can be a serious hazard on quarry sites. Factors such as difficult light conditions, fatigue, dust, dirt, wind, rain, reverse operation or pile height can cause complications. Haul roads and blast sites should be watered down to reduce airborne dirt and dust.

Lighting
For night operations, effective lighting in the load and the dump areas is essential. Similarly, the design of the bench and dump areas can help reduce spillages and therefore the wear and tear on tyres.

Safety regulations vary from country to country. Increasingly, the reduction of accidents is a key driver and most international mines and quarries have implemented over time a zero tolerance to safety hazards that has helped drive a safety culture. Safety can be complex and includes many elements. It is a continuous journey that needn’t necessarily be costly. Consulting services are available through some equipment manufacturers and their dealer network. Free information can be found at safety.cat.com.

 


 

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