BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA)’s Saraji team in Queensland has invented an alternative way of pulling mobile equipment across the mining industry to reduce a manual handling risk.
The team’s award-winning synthetic lightweight couplings have proven to be a “clever alternative” to the 110 kilogram combined weight of a pull ring and metal shackles used in pulling heavy equipment.
BMA overburden supervisor Josh Leppard, a sailor on his days off, used his knowledge of the marine industry to develop this practical solution.
Leppard and the team worked with the marine coupling manufacturer in New Zealand to “super size” the technology to suit the mining industry.
“Being a yacht racer for many years, we moved away from using metal shackles four or five years ago and now only use synthetic couplings that are made specifically for marine purposes,” Leppard said.
“These couplings are lightweight but provide exceptional strength as you would expect to be needed on offshore race yachts.”
The soft couplings weigh around eight kilograms and are made of Dyneema, one of the world’s strongest and most reliable fibres available, according to BHP.
They are then braided with Technora, which gives them high heat and chemical resistance, as well as protecting against chafe – the same product used for bullet proof vests and firefighting clothing.
The team worked with independent testers to verify and strength test the shackles so they could be used on site.
Saraji is now in the process of getting soft recovery shackles and soft recovery couplings certified so they can be used in lifting operations, which will substitute the existing heavy weight lifting shackles.
The team are also working through and obtaining a “FRAS” rating so they can be used underground for longwall moves.
“We hope that by creating the “soft couplings” we’ll not only reduce the risks associated with heavy lifting and manual handling, but also remove the physical barriers that may prevent some men and women from completing the task,” Leppard concluded.