Nothing is more important than making sure workers return home safely every day. Nivek Industries’ TED machine is helping achieve this. Safe to Work explains.
Changing belly plates has traditionally been a risky activity for fitters at mining operations.
Nivek Industries’ Tracked Elevating Device (TED) – a remote-controlled, battery-powered, all-terrain, multi-purpose belly plate jack – has greatly reduced that risk.
The catalyst for TED’s inception was a near miss for fitter Kevin Cant in 2008, while removing a belly plate in the pit using cummalongs and slings.
As happens in the field, there was an unplanned move, and the belly plate slipped, falling to the ground and narrowly missing Cant.
He set about researching a safer way to do the job after the incident, but found nothing on the market worldwide, so he decided to come up with a solution himself. The first TED went to work on a local Hunter Valley mine site in 2011.
TED’s presence at Australian operations has grown significantly over the past year.
With the mining industry increasingly aware of the safety benefits TED can offer (with nearly 150 units on site in Australia), the machine is fast becoming a relied upon tool within maintenance workshops.
Leading miners and contractors, including Theiss, Glencore, Rio Tinto, Peabody Energy, Yancoal, BHP and Anglo American use the machine. It has also generated interest in the international marketplace.
Cant says the machine is about more than changing the way fitters work, but also making sure they get home safely to their families each day.
The mining industry’s had fatalities from dropped belly guards, he says, so being able to lower them under the machine without the operator being in close proximity provides a potentially life-saving addition to mine sites.
“Fitters love it. They’re not crawling around on their hand and knees all the time now. It takes its toll on your body after a few years your knees and back in particular. I would have loved to have had a TED back when I was a fitter,” Cant tells Safe to Work.
“After my slip with the belly guard and the cummalongs in the pit, I saw reports filter through of fatalities on other sites from the same thing that almost got me, so I ramped up my search for a safer way of changing belly plates in the pit – but there was nothing on the market.
“With TED, it was more than just making something practical, it was about helping other fitters make it home in one piece at night; some of them didn’t. Some of them lost their lives or their limbs under belly plates.”
The jack, which has a safe working load (SWL) of 800kg, is remote controlled so the worker does not have to be near the machine during operation.
The tracks are driven by two independent motors, allowing it to operate like a skid steer, making it easy to manoeuvre into position.
The feedback from industry about TED’s value at mine sites generally starts from a safety perspective, particularly for its ability to reduce the risk of crushing injuries while also lowering the physical strain maintenance work places on the body.
Peabody Energy’s Wambo Coal Mine general manager, Albert Scheepers, believes every mine site needs a TED because of its safety benefits.
“TED is a great safety innovation, it sits high on the hierarchy of controls as an engineering solution, taking employees out of the line of fire by removing them from the hazard,” Scheepers says.
“As an industry, we have improved our safety performance tremendously over the past years, but unfortunately there’s still people out there getting hurt, and sadly fatal injuries have occurred from belly plates on dozers in our industry. TED is solving a real issue.”
A fitter from a leading OEM says having the control of TED makes the process of changing belly guards feel a lot safer.
“You can drive it in, you can turn it on the spot, where our old trolleys, you’re going back and forth and you’re pulling big handlebars around trying to get it in the right spot,” he says.
“This thing – you can turn it on the spot, forward, back, you can spin it 360 if you want to. It does make things a lot easier.”
TED’s value as a safety device is noticeable, but the efficiency gains it delivers in the workshop and on mines should not be overlooked.
The device has been known to save up to 20 minutes on jobs that involve changing a belly plate.
“If you’re doing bulk belly guards, you’ve got a bloke outside with a forklift or an overhead crane and you’re in and out,” the fitter says.
“You can sit underneath them and drive it straight out, old mate picks it off and you drive it straight back in and get the next one.”
Nivek Industries adds to the versatility of TED by continuing to develop general-purpose attachments that can be fitted to the main chassis using attachment pins or bolted onto the surface turntable.
The attachments include the blade (for clearing a safe working area underneath machinery); the track roller carrier (to aid in the replacement of track rollers); the cutting edge tool (to aid in the removal, replacement and maintenance of cutting edges); the steer cylinder cradle (to aid in the replacement of steer cylinders, tie rods etc); the stand locating tool (to aid in the placement of axle stands); the slope jig (particularly suited to Y links and maintenance requiring adjustable angles); and extension blocks (to increase TED’s reach).
“TED’s pretty versatile, I mean the attachments side of it is endless,” one mobile superintendent says.
“Anything where you can get rid of that lifting and have it supported by a stable base that you jack up into place is always a benefit.”
As more TEDs have been introduced at Australian mine sites, Nivek Industries has increased the level of support available for the owners of the machines.
The company now has service centres in Western Australia and Queensland, complementing its base in Singleton, New South Wales.
When asked about what’s next for Nivek Industries and his brain child TED, Cant says: “As for future plans there’s quite a few additions to TED and completely new concepts in the pipeline. Wherever fitters are putting their lives on the line, we’re looking for ways to keep them safe at work.
“It’s not just about looking after them in a life and death sense though, quality of life is important too, and taking some of the manual handling, the relentless crawling, the heavy dragging and pushing out of the equation, means that they can head home less sore and able to get on with enjoying a better life.”
This article also appears in the October–December edition of Safe to Work.