Diacon Australia guards workers in conveyor environments

Conveyors can be one of the most dangerous places to work on or around at a mine site. Diacon Australia aims to guard workers from being injured with its plastic conveyor guards. Salomae Haselgrove writes. 

Despite knowledge within the industry about the risks of working around conveyor systems, serious injuries unfortunately still occur, meaning appropriate conveyor guarding solutions are essential at mine sites.

Diacon Australia offers high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic guards, which are of high quality and specialised design to avoid accidents on or around conveyor belts.

Plastic guards have the advantage of being more lightweight than the conventionally used steel options, being corrosion free and available in a distinct yellow colour for safety, which doesn’t wear off, and never require removal for painting.

These guards also require far less processing and minimal jigging during the set-up process, making guarding a mine with plastic guards quicker and cheaper than with steel.

As Diacon Australia managing director Brendan Refalo explains, conveyor guards are only one part of the process of keeping workers safe on conveyors, but an important one at that.

“Unfortunately, way too many people get hurt through working around conveyors in the Australian mining industry,” Refalo tells Safe to Work. “Our product is only one piece of the puzzle in keeping people safe on conveyors.

“It is so surprising that in 2020 people are not only still getting injured, but still getting killed. It is so avoidable and there is obviously a need for improved conveyor safety.”

While Diacon Australia provides the products for enhanced conveyor safety, awareness of the standard of equipment required to ensure safety on and around conveyors is essential to lowering the number of injuries and fatalities occurring on Australian mine sites.

This is true not just for the mining industry, but processing plants for other materials including wood chips, gravel or any operations involving working around bulk material handling conveyors.

As well as guarding solutions, technology can be used to heighten conveyor guard safety, through operational controls and interlocking systems.

While designing these systems is not part of Diacon Australia’s service, the company works to combine its products with them for the safest conveyors possible.

“We’re not electrical interlock specialists but our guarding can be adapted to fit any available systems,” Refalo explains.

“Because our guard is so customisable, we are often asked to fit it with interlocking gates, which have gated access and electronic controls.”

Under this system, any time the gate is opened, the system automatically shuts down and isolates, providing another safety barrier to help workers avoid injury.

“We will adapt our guards to work with these systems so they can achieve whatever is necessary to keep people safe,” Refalo says.

With so many other dangerous parts on conveyors, such as the pulleys, continuously moving rollers and induction motors, it is easy to overlook other more modest dangers of the conveyor, such as the walkway.

Diacon Australia has combatted this risk as well, giving its guards the added benefit of being designed to be easily removed and hung on handrails during conveyor maintenance, eliminating them as a potential trip hazard.

“Diacon guards are easily adaptable to site conditions and are designed to be hung on the handrail beside the conveyor during maintenance, which removes them from sitting on the catwalk becoming another workplace hazard,” Refalo says.

The Diacon guards are also adaptable in what kind of sites they can be used on, including flexibility for use on both underground and open pit operations, with specialised fire-resistant anti-static (FRAS) options for coal mines available for design upon request.

This flexibility doesn’t just range from what sites the guards can be used on, but to the size of the guards themselves, allowing them to fit around obstructions around the conveyor belt, meaning the site doesn’t need to be altered upon installation.

These guards look identical but are designed to different sizes to fit around obstacles such as weigh stations, metal detectors, sampling equipment and belt tracking systems.

Using laser scanning, the Diacon Australia engineering and design teams work to build an accurate model of the conveyor and overlay the proposed guards, to ensure a precise fit.

The guards are then built with Australian HDPE and installed by Diacon for a smooth process.

“We spend several days on each site making sure what we’ve measured is absolutely correct before we leave the site,” Refalo says.

Diacon Australia remains there for its clients should the guards need any maintenance down the track. This is a rare occurrence, with just 1 per cent of guards requiring modifying after the initial design and installation.

This ease of process is just one of the reasons clients are impressed with Diacon’s guard solutions. Refalo attributes their lightweight and corrosion free properties, and that they don’t require painting as the three key reasons for their popularity.

With Diacon Australia’s conveyor guards, mine sites can be assured that they are sending their employees to work in a safe environment.

“People who go to work on those sites every day deserve the right to go home to their family and that’s part of the hard work we do to make sure that they do,” Refalo concludes.

“The bare basic is that people don’t get injured or killed at work and we have a system that can be adapted to make sure that this is the case. People work hard to make a living; we work hard to keep you safe at it.”

This article appears in the July–August issue of Safe to Work.

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