Safe to Work explains how Kal Tire has helped create a secure environment for tyre maintenance at the Roy Hill iron ore operation in the Pilbara. Ben Creagh writes.
Tyre maintenance facilities are considered one of the most high-risk areas for safety incidences at mine sites.
Working with tyres is potentially dangerous because of their large size and mass, the magnitude of air or gas pressures, and presence of combustible materials, according to the Western Australian mines department.
The uncontrolled release of air from tyres has been known to have devastating consequences at operations when a failure happens.
Roy Hill and Kal Tire’s Mining Tire Group have collaborated to reduce this risk at the Pilbara iron ore operation.
The operator-contractor tyre maintenance relationship at Roy Hill originally started with Klinge & Co (before it was acquired by Kal Tire in 2016) on a consulting basis in 2012.
Klinge was awarded the tyre management contract at Roy Hill in 2014, more than a year before the first shipment of iron ore from the operation at the end of 2015.
In the four years since, Klinge, and now Kal Tire, has worked closely with Roy Hill to drive safety and operational improvement, while also introducing new innovations to the site.
Kal Tire’s focus on safety at Roy Hill was rewarded this year when the team won the company’s coveted Tom Foord Award for Safety Excellence, competing against its operations across five continents.
The Tom Foord award, which honours Kal Tire’s founder, recognises safety performance, team development, training, the implementation of unique safety elements, helping to create profitability, innovation and tyre performance.
Roy Hill manager, mobile maintenance, Brenden Pool, praises the safety performance of the Kal Tire team, which has not recorded a lost time injury (LTI) at the site in the past three years.
“Many tyre fitters have come unstuck in that role – they do some of the most high-risk work at mine sites,” Pool tells Safe To Work. “For a decent-sized workforce, which works remotely a lot around the site, Kal Tire has procedures for everything to prevent an incident.”
So how has Kal Tire contributed to the safe working environment at the massive 55 million tonne a year operation?
Klinge’s early involvement at Roy Hill, a greenfields operation, provided an opportunity to offer crucial safety-focused recommendations during development of the tyre maintenance facility.
Kal Tire general manager – western region, Miles Rigney, says having design input during the project phase is important.
Rigney recalls applying the hierarchy of controls – elimination, substitution, isolation, engineering administration, and personal protection equipment (PPE) – to the design to ensure long-term safety at the facility.
“The risk at a remote tyre facility like this is having a catastrophic tyre failure causing harm to people,” Rigney says. “Although this is unlikely to occur, but regardless would have high or devastating consequences, we applied the hierarchy of controls to mitigate that risk.”
As the hierarchy of controls suggest, the tyre management team set out to eliminate the potential for causing harm to people with the design. Removing people from critical areas formed the basis of this strategy, Rigney explains.
“While it is not possible to eliminate changing tyres completely, something we have to do is mitigate the risk,” Rigney says. “In a restricted, closed area we do that by having strategies around remote inflation and deflation stations which keep our people outside of the line of fire.”
The tyre facility has, therefore, been developed a significant distance from areas with a high density of people, reducing the risk of causing harm to workers at least 100m away.
Rigney says being out of range of people is a key driver behind the decision to segregate tyre maintenance facilities at mining operations.
“When opportunities arise for greenfields mining operations and planning can be considered, giving a large area to plan tyre work facilities is something that is certainly worthwhile,” Rigney says.
The large area for the facility also allows Roy Hill to segregate high-risk tyre maintenance activities, including traffic management.
Roy Hill’s traffic management design sees light vehicle traffic separated from heavy vehicles such as the Cat and Hitachi haul trucks used at the mine.
Pool says the traffic management layout is a design suggested by the tyre management team that won over Roy Hill’s maintenance team during development.
“The design of the traffic management system was reviewed on a number of occasions by Klinge. They had a lot of input into the way it is segregated into heavy vehicle and light vehicle areas,” Pool says.
“The light vehicle maintenance is done on one side and the heavy vehicles on the other; unless the gates are down you can’t get into the heavy vehicle side.”
In addition to helping Roy Hill develop a secure workshop, Kal Tire has taken the opportunity to add new initiatives through innovation, showing this endeavour goes hand-in-hand with improving safety.
Kal Tire recently introduced its Gravity Assist System, which acts like a mechanical arm to hold and swivel the 36kg torque gun like a weightless extension of the technician’s body, removing the need to fasten almost 70 lug nuts holding the enormous piece of equipment.
“Our team has done a lot of work around writing the safety instructions and training instructions for the Gravity Assist tool and we share that back with our innovation team,” Rigney says. Kal Tire develops innovations like the Gravity Assist System at its innovation centre in Canada.
Rigney views Kal Tire’s safety performance at Roy Hill as an example of why operator-contractor collaboration is important for the mining industry.
Pool, also appreciative of the collaborative relationship, believes it is important to give contractors like Kal Tire the opportunity offer innovative ideas that might improve safety and operational performance. He says Kal Tire has consistently delivered in this regard.
“The more open we make the relationship the more ideas we will get to make the environment safer,” Pool says. “We do this with a lot of our suppliers; we are happy to partner with them and invest in ideas.”
Pool says Roy Hill is proud of Kal Tire for winning the Tom Foord safety award, especially considering the global opposition it has been up against to receive the honour.
“We’d like to think Roy Hill had a bit to do with setting them up to succeed, but the lion share goes to those guys,” he concludes.
This article appears in the October-December edition of Safe to Work.