Safe To Work Fri, 14 Dec 2018 00:09:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Hearing the warnings Mon, 10 Dec 2018 22:10:04 +0000 Hummingbird Electronics’ warning system technology is helping to improve safety through customisable, verbal messages and visual cues for truck and heavy machine operators.

Flashing warning systems, monotonous buzzing alarms – the heavy machine operator’s dashboard can light up like a Christmas tree to warn them of any imminent dangers. However, are these visual and audible warnings getting through in time before an accident occurs?

For Australian safety electronics manufacturer Hummingbird Electronics, clear verbal messages present a number of safety benefits that can help build on and improve the warning systems already in place for heavy machine operators.

Part of the REDARC Electronics group since May 2015, Hummingbird specialises in bespoke sensor products focused on driver safety, both for trucks and construction equipment operators in the Australian civil construction and transport market.

“Everything from the angle, pitch, temperature and force to the speed of the vehicle – Hummingbird products encompass all aspects of driver safety,” Mark Bruce, Hummingbird Electronics’ national sales and marketing manager, explains.

The company’s latest product releases epitomise how an effective warning system can be the difference between a near miss and an accident for operator and machine.

The Hummingbird Elite HMDS8000 Dual Axis inclinometer – an in-cab monitor and sensor kit – enables an operator to monitor the pitch and roll of their machines, namely large equipment and customised vehicles such as earthmoving machinery, water trucks and heavy transport vehicles.

“These are large machines and can be very dangerous on civil and mining sites because they tend to inherit a high centre of gravity,” Bruce says.

The higher centre of gravity means a large portion of the machine’s weight is carried high up off the road surface, making them top-heavy and vulnerable to roll overs especially on the varied terrains of civil worksites.

“Once you start putting loads in the back of a dump truck or the earthmoving boom/bucket of an excavator, the centre of gravity can also dramatically change,” Bruce explains.

“The driver could be sitting in an air-conditioned, pressurised cab, so they can be quite oblivious to how dangerous these angles are.”

Image: Hummingbird's bespoke sensor products focus on driver safety.
Image: Hummingbird’s bespoke sensor products focus on driver safety.


Articulated dump trucks, for instance, can be especially susceptible to rolling from slight angles, according to Bruce.

“A wheel may drop off an edge that could take the trailer with it, the weight of which could also take the cabin with it,” he says.

The Hummingbird inclinometer kit provides the operator with a visible pitch, roll and speed measurement display that shows the angle of the machine and when a potential danger is imminent by way of a unit sensor on the vehicle.

“The screen will show an image of the machine, which will turn yellow and emit a repeating beep to warn the operator when they come close to a dangerous angle. If the driver goes further, the screen goes to red and it emits a continuous beeping noise,” Bruce says.

“The inclinometer also gives you the ability to customise the angle at which the warnings start for both pitch and roll.”

The ability to customise the response time of the sensor gives more flexibility in various applications, such as vehicles travelling over rough surfaces, which could trigger a false alarm.

The inclinometer Elite model incorporates GPS technology, which provides speed readings and the ability to log over-speed events.

“It can then provide a time stamp of where and when an event occurs. All that information can be accessed straight from the password protected device without the business having to use a third party,” Bruce adds.

Traditionally, heavy machine operators have used a ball-in-tube type warning system using gradients on a curved tube to alert them to a potentially dangerous angle. However, Bruce says this system has become antiquated.

“With the inclinometer system in the cab, the driver is getting training every day. It’s painting a really precise picture of what angle and gradients they are getting close to,” he says.

The inclinometer can incorporate two sensors.
The inclinometer can incorporate two sensors.


The Hummingbird inclinometer is also the only product of its type that can incorporate two sensors, making it perfect for articulated machines, according to Bruce.

A second sensor can be installed and monitored simultaneously via the in-cab screen – providing independent pitch and roll information for a second vessel, such as a prime mover and its trailer.

Like the Hummingbird inclinometer kit, the manufacturer’s 16 channel audio alert system is designed to alert vehicle and machine operators of safety warnings, albeit in a uniquely vocal way.

“If you think about buzzing noises or alarms on cars and vehicles, they all sound the same. We’ve somewhat become complacent with these alarms – we ignore them and don’t acknowledge them as much,” Bruce says. “All of these buzzers and warnings can become very ineffective for heavy machinery operators.”

Hummingbird identified the need for an alarm system that went beyond the traditional ‘buzz’ and visual light warnings, and approached the manufacturer for a solution. Through comprehensive product development the audio alert system was born.

The system is designed to give vehicle and machine operators clear and precise audible verbal alerts when an input trigger has been detected, rather than receiving an alert via a dashboard full of warning lights, symbols and buzzers. It can be programmed for up to 16 individual input triggers, which come in the form of prerecorded audio files loaded onto an SD card and put into the device on installation.

If one of the triggers is for low oil pressure, for instance, the device could emit a preset verbal message such as: “Warning, oil pressure low”.

The devices allow operators to monitor the pitch and roll of a machine.
The devices allow operators to monitor the pitch and roll of a machine.


“We could have messages playing every time you turn a machine on: ‘Have you done your pre-starts?’, ‘Please fasten seatbelt’, or even, ‘Apply handbrake’ when shutting down,” Bruce explains.

“It could be anything from a machine alert to message saying: ‘Please contact site manager’, including their mobile, to a ‘door open’ warning.”

He says other examples of warning messages could cover high engine temperature, headlights on, tailgate open or even over-speed detected.

The system can be customised to prioritise different warnings for the operator, as well as the frequency and volume of certain verbal messages. “There could be an instance whereby a door open and low oil pressure alarm is triggered, and the low oil pressure verbal warning would take precedence over the door, for example.”

It also features a 9- to 36-volt input range, enabling it to be used in both 12- and 24-volt vehicle applications.

Both inclinometer and audio alert system devices can work in tandem – the Elite inclinometer can issue a verbal message when a roll warning is detected, for instance.

Bruce says the system not only helps to improve operator safety, but it can help guide the operator on the tasks at hand.

“It can even apply to machines for hire companies. It could provide basic and straightforward guidance for those who aren’t using these machines every day,” Bruce explains.

“It can tell the driver to complete certain tasks. They need to be trained and a machine fitted with the audio alert system is essentially verbally training the operator.”

Bruce says there are a number of bus companies using the system as standard, as well as waste management firms and OEMs adopting the Australian designed and manufactured safety devices.

“It’s foolproof for drivers, the audio alert system takes away the guess-work, ultimately improving safety and reliability by turning warnings into a clear verbal readout,” he concludes.

This article originally appeared in the Oct–Dec edition of Safe to Work.

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BHP delivers safer tyre handling system to Saraji Mon, 10 Dec 2018 21:39:41 +0000 BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance’s (BMA) Saraji coal mine in Central Queensland has made a commitment to challenge its existing mindset around tyre handlers.

Tyre fitters are exposed to many incidents, injuries and fatalities when handling heavy vehicle earth moving tyres.

With tyre assemblies weighing up to 15 tonnes, the Saraji team set out to investigate a range of options and consulted the market when it found Hedweld’s TH 15000 tyre handler.

The TH 15000 tyre handler removes tyre fitters from the direct line of fire and safely secures the tyre in place during changes.

The device also features a jib arm to support the weight of the rattle gun required to remove the wheel nuts.

“A key part of this project was changing our way of thinking around tyre handling. We spent a lot of time engaging our teams and looking for opportunities to increase not only the safety and productivity of our processes, but also the culture that surrounds these types of activities,” Jarrod Layton, superintendent mods and ops projects in the Saraji engineering team, said.

Using Bluetooth technology, the device is remote controlled to give the operator improved visibility when aligning the device with the tyre and removes the need for any manual handling of the product.

The device also allows the workshop to make better use of all its bays as well as reduces the number of people required for tyre handling.

“As the size of mining equipment grows, traditional methods for handling tyres becomes more hazardous and time consuming,” said Layton.

“Traditionally, tyres are moved by equipment such as loaders and forklifts, and requires at least two fitters to operate. These items however, have limitations due to their size, manoeuvrability and safety.”

Layton said that while the safety and productivity benefits were clear, the cultural change had also been fantastic to see.

“We see that we’re willing to invest and try new equipment and train them in order to deliver safer results,” Layton concluded.

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WA to develop new climate change policy Mon, 10 Dec 2018 21:31:53 +0000 The Western Australian Government will release a climate change policy that takes into account advances in climate science and national policy changes for the state.

The initiative is driven by Western Australia’s exposure to impacts from national greenhouse gas policies due to its energy-intensive, resource-based economy.

The climate policy will build on existing climate-related measures that are already under way, including ways to enhance renewable energy (e.g. renewable hydrogen), strategies to secure water supplies to offset reduced rainfall (e.g. recycled water and desalination), and acceleration of electric vehicles

The McGowan Government believes that despite the leadership of the federal government at a national level, the state government has a role to play.

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said, “There’s more we can do to reduce the risks, the impacts and the costs. And there’s more we can do to improve the resilience of our communities and our environment.

“But there are measures we can take to ensure Western Australia is well positioned in the face of rapid technological change and a changing climate – whatever the position of the Commonwealth Government.”

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation will build on the above climate-related measures and coordinate the new policy over the next 12 months.

The previous climate change strategy was published in 2012 and developed in the context of a national carbon price.

Western Australia is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The South West, for example, is under pressure from habitat destruction; it is one of the most fire-prone regions in the world and also one of the places on the planet most impacted by reduced rainfall.

Possible results from this climate change are decreased rainfall, increased extreme weather events, bushfires and coastal erosion, as well as changing patterns of disease.

“Many climate change issues are already being addressed by state agencies, industry and the community – but we can all do better,” said Dawson.

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Bullying, burnout in line for change among FIFO workers Mon, 10 Dec 2018 21:24:32 +0000 Rates of psychological distress, workplace bullying and burnout are significantly higher among fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers than their non-FIFO counterparts, one of Australia’s most comprehensive FIFO research studies has shown.

The McGowan Government-funded research involved more than 3000 FIFO workers and their families, and the partnership of industry, unions and researchers from Curtin University.

WA Mental Health Minister Roger Cook said the study was initiated by a number of deaths by suicide by FIFO workers.

Thirty-three per cent, or almost double the number of FIFO workers experienced high levels of psychological distress compared to only 17 per cent of non-FIFO workers.

“This research was undertaken in response to calls from family members and recommendations from the Education and Health Standing Committee inquiry into FIFO work arrangements,” Cook said.

“The McGowan Government listened to families and the wider community, and agreed that more needed to be done, which is why we commissioned this research.”

The WA Government is urging the mining and construction industry, unions and individuals to implement the 18 recommendations made in the report. They include rosters and shift patterns that provide better rest time, permanent rooms at accommodation sites and building local community connections.

The recommendations were made to further improve the mental health and wellbeing of FIFO workers, despite many FIFO workers already using a wide range of positive strategies.

Workers were reported to have maintained regular communication with family and friends while on-site, and seeking mental health support when needed.

“We hope the industry, unions and FIFO workers themselves will adopt the report recommendations, on site, and at home, to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of all FIFO workers, and their families,” Cook said.

The research outcomes will influence the draft code of practice being developed by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) for mentally healthy workplaces for FIFO workers in the resources and construction sectors in Western Australia.

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Bushfires and respiratory protection Wed, 05 Dec 2018 05:44:03 +0000

Bushfires are part of life in Australia. These fires can produce vast amounts of smoke, off-gases and ash and there is a need to consider the most appropriate ways of providing respiratory protection for those exposed to these contaminants.

Fire decomposes or breaks down materials. The composition of these breakdown products will vary depending on the composition of the burning materials — this can be from many sources; the ventilation conditions – poor ventilation reduces the available oxygen and changes the makeup of the decomposition products; and the temperature of the fire.

Burning produces particles as well as gases & vapours. The gases can often include irritants like hydrogen chloride and acrolein.

Smoke is defined in AS/NZS1715:1994 as “particles of low vapour pressure suspended in the air. Smoke is made from the solid and liquid products of combustion. Smoke particles settle slowly under gravity. Normally, the combustion process that produces smoke also produces gases.”

Respirators for Bushfires

Only SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) is suitable for all of the possible contaminants that can be released by fires in all situations. Metropolitan fire fighters use SCBA routinely because the contaminants and their concentrations are unknown in most of their applications.

However, SCBA is normally considered unsuitable for bushfire fighting because the air in the cylinders does not last long enough to effectively fight bushfires; the heavy SCBA is used in high temperatures for long periods at high work rates; outfitting and training volunteers with SCBA is too costly and difficult to organise; and maintenance – supplying hundreds or thousands of air cylinders to fire zones would be a logistics nightmare.

Air filtering respirator options

Respirators with filters will remove some but not all of the fire products from the air. There is no simple filter capable of filtering every substance. Some considerations when using air-filtering respirators for bush fire fighters include:

– Are people to be protected from the occurrence of potentially lethal atmospheres e.g. very high levels of carbon monoxide or oxygen deficient conditions? If so, only SCBA should be used.

– If the aim is protection from inhaled particulate contaminants only, use of a P2 rated filter is recommended for the thermally generated particles (AS/NZS1715). This includes disposable types that are light and comfortable like the 3MTM Disposable respirators 9320, 9320A+ and 9322A+, P2.

If comfort and reduction of irritation is the primary concern, a variety of air filtering respirators is available – in both disposable and reusable styles.

Each type has advantages and disadvantages in specific applications, for example when the fire produces low levels of organic vapours and/or irritant acid gases. Disposable masks for low gas or vapour concentrations help reduce irritation and respirators like the 3M disposable respirators 8514, P2 and 9926, P2 have been used for bushfire fighting. By capturing the smoke particles and some of the off gases, irritation from smoke inhalation can be significantly reduced.

Another option is to use a half facemask like the 3M 6000 or 7500 series fitted with 2000 series or 6035/6038 filters. The 2125 is a P2 rated filter suitable for smokes and fumes, while the 2128 GP2 is the same particle filter with an added layer of carbon to help absorb nuisance levels of organic vapours and acid gases.

Using a 3MTM 6800 full face mask with the 2135 (P3) or 2138 (GP3 with added carbon) will provide even higher levels of respiratory and also eye protection. The 6035 (P3) and 6038 (P3 with nuisance level acid gas/organic vapour capacity) provide an enclosed filter for greater protection and durability.

– Is rated gas or vapour and particle protection required eg for formaldehyde? If concentrations of gas or vapours are significant, AS/NZS1716 rated gas or vapour filters should be used fitted to a half face mask like the 3M 6000 or 7500 series, for example the 3M 6075 formaldehyde or organic vapour filter with the 5925, P2 particle filter.

If concentrations are very high (not routine in a bushfire scenario), then SCBA is an option or a full face mask (6000 or 7800 series) fitted with organic vapour or formaldehyde or particle capability (6075/5925 filter combination).

Respirators that are easy to use and maintain will also help gain user acceptance. This is because lightweight respirators are more comfortable; exhalation valves help prevent heat build-up. They let the warm, moisture-laden breath escape quickly from inside the mask; and maintenance free or disposable products reduce the risk of using defective equipment. There is no spare parts inventory and no time resource required for maintenance.

3M mask3M mask

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