Following an unfortunate bout of injuries and fatalities, the mining industry is pushing for better safety and compliance, prompting many mines to rethink existing work practices and focus on making the right tools for the job available.
The Queensland Government recruited four additional mine inspectors during January, giving it 46 in total, to ensure the health and safety of the state’s 70,000 mining and quarrying workers.
A bill to penalise industrial manslaughter to strengthen safety culture within the resources sector was also passed by the state government.
Under these new laws, employers deemed responsible for causing the death of mine workers face a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment or 100,000 penalty units.
The state government’s moves follow eight fatalities during the past 18 months in the mining and quarrying industries in Queensland alone.
As a result of these stronger laws and additional inspectors, there is a greater emphasis on providing the right tooling, safety culture and environment to help ensure every worker returns home safely after their shift.
Nivek Industries is committed to improving mine safety across Australia with its specialised equipment.
The company understands the importance of safety equipment all too well, after director and owner Kevin Cant was involved in a near miss incident while working as a fitter.
The belly plate Cant was working on slipped and narrowly avoided crushing him, which inspired him to spend three years of research and design to create the Tracking Elevating Device, or TED, the world’s first remote controlled belly plate jack.
First demonstrated by Cant on site at the Rix’s Creek mine in New South Wales, the innovation has since been adopted at mine sites, quarries and earthmoving projects across Australia.
There has been a myriad of attachments recently added to the TED range, allowing for more maintenance jobs to be completed without the fitter in the line of fire for the dangerous lift and lower part of maintenance operations.
As Nivek Industries sales and marketing manager Rachel Fraser explains, the company is always consulting workers within the industry to continue to uphold its high safety standards in the design and manufacture of new equipment.
The Lift Assist Arm (LA-40), another innovative safety product designed and manufactured by Nivek Industries, was developed to take the weight of tooling.
These tools can weigh up to 36 kilograms and are typically used at awkward angles and heights for extended periods of time.
Nivek’s LA-40 gives fitters greater control of the job by lowering manual handling, which improves posture and fatigue on the job.
The LA-40 also allows fitters to keep their fingers and hands out of tight places, therefore avoiding potential finger and hand strip and crush injuries.
“We’re hearing from fitters and safety people that the fatigue reduction they’re experiencing using the system is huge,” Fraser tells Safe to Work.
“There are some well documented links between fatigue and serious accidents, particularly in high-risk industries.
“Improved safety by lowering fatigue is a key offering of LA-40.”
With the success of the LA-40, a couple of the company’s clients approached them to make a stand to adapt the arm for usage at the site’s tyre bay.
“After experiencing the benefits of the LA-40 in the maintenance workshop, one of our local sites asked us to make a stand to adapt the arm for use in the tyre bay,” Fraser explains.
“Word got around quickly that we were working on this project and subsequently, several tyre companies and mine sites got in touch with us.
“Talking to tyre fitters, it becomes quickly evident that they have a tough, incredibly physically fatiguing job which we’ve recently seen taking its toll.
“While each tragedy has its own unique set of circumstances and there is no single, golden fix, recent events have highlighted the need to focus on safety and improve conditions for tyre fitters.
“There needs to be a better way. In consultation with some tyre industry leaders, we have been working on providing tooling solutions to improve working conditions for tyre fitters.”
While saving lives is Nivek’s number one priority, the company also focusses on bettering general health and wellbeing, such as improved posture, to avoid repeated stress injuries in the long term.
“The Lift Assist system lowers manual handling and consequently improves posture, which are both massive wins for musculoskeletal health,” Fraser says.
Nivek Industries constantly seeks feedback from its customers, finding out what their concerns are firsthand and creating a solution from the bottom up.
Using this feedback, Nivek Industries is able to shape its equipment to counter fatigue and other workplace safety compliances with advice from the people out in the workforce.
“It’s incredibly valuable to us to have so much feedback from engineers, fitters and safety personnel, the people who will ultimately be using the system,” Fraser says.
“(This gives) us the parameters to work within and get the design right straight up, meeting some pretty tough criteria.”
“We’re excited to release the Lift Assist stand in the coming months and seeing the system implemented on tyre bays around the country,” Fraser concludes.