WSN looking for Technical Advisory Committee members

Thursday, October 03, 2013

So you think you know safety?

Are you a stickler about safety? Do you have a passion for protecting others? Are you mechanically inclined? Then Workplace Safety North wants to talk to you about joining their technical advisory committee on mining equipment. This committee is just one of five mining technical advisory committees (TAC) facilitated by WSN – others include ground control, mine rescue, safety and loss, and workplace environment. 

A few good people

When it comes to the safe design and operation of mining equipment, Ontario is a North American leader. Currently, the mining equipment technical advisory committee is comprised of eight members, but has room for up to 15, so they’re on the lookout specifically for mechanics, fleet managers, equipment purchasers, operations or maintenance supervisors, contractors, drillers, millwrights, and other technically-knowledgeable miners including those familiar with hoisting and crushing equipment. Currently there is no representation from soft rock mines, or the regions of Marathon, Thunder Bay, Red Lake, or Kirkland Lake.

By having members from various jurisdictions, there’s an opportunity to learn about changes in mining equipment and vehicles, equipment available to satisfy different needs, obtain feedback on new equipment, increase awareness of safety concerns, and share your procedures and best practices with other mining equipment professionals. You’ll be able to access the latest research and help shape topics and industry recommendations. 

Rick Banting preparing presentation for committee

“It’s an opportunity to share in a bigger picture as far as prevention of injuries across the province,” says meeting facilitator Rick Banting. “And a step beyond that is cost-effectiveness because we know that there’s millions of dollars of damage every year on mining equipment, including hoisting and crushing. Many mines have different solutions or come up with innovative ways to either prevent collisions or prevent damage to their hoist, or safer operation in general, and you have the opportunity to bring that information to the group. And if the team thinks it’s OK, we will share it with the rest of the industry. 

“We share best practices, and anything you learn here at the table, you can take back to your organization and neighbouring mines as well. Because typically, if you look at a Red Lake camp I’m sure the safety people at each mine know each other and talk to each other. So we try to get somebody involved from every region of the province to have a rich variety of mining experiences and mining equipment challenges, and to make sure information is shared across the province.

“The time investment is only about five days a year plus travel time,” notes Banting. “This includes four meetings as well as time to review and prepare comments on committee products. Obviously, participation requires the support of company officials and an initial discussion with WSN.”

Your mission should you choose to accept

The committee’s overall mandate is to identify, evaluate and prioritize health and safety issues regarding mining equipment, and to recommend solutions to WSN and Ontario’s mining industry. That includes making recommendations on the development of health and safety programs. You’ll be asked to review, evaluate and provide advice on projects and programs as requested by WSN; and to provide resources for the development and delivery of educational materials.

“We’ve developed a guideline on remote-controlled equipment, which includes best practices the committee thought were important, and also some hazards,” says Banting. “We’ve prepared a diesel engine guideline which outlines the safety features that should be considered when commissioning a piece of underground mobile equipment.

“We’ve been heavily involved in vibration research and members of the committee have provided access to their mines for equipment vibration testing – and provided materials such as seats for testing at University of Western Ontario. We’ve also been involved in operator’s line of sight research, again providing researchers access to the mines, and have produced technical reports around the need for good line of sight for underground mobile equipment operators and some ways to achieve that. 

“Currently we’re working on a technical report for fire prevention on mobile equipment Since the committee is made up of representatives from mining companies, when we produce a technical report, it’ll be distributed to various manufacturers and also to our members and disseminated by them as well, so that number one, the manufacturers know that we have some kind of standard around fire prevention needs for mobile equipment, and two, it gives those who are purchasing equipment a guideline for their specifications.

“We believe that with the expertise at the table, these report specs are going to be higher level than just one person sitting down in a procurement office and saying, ‘I want to buy a piece of machinery and this is what I think it should look like.’ Of course, there are regulations, but they are typically a minimum, and our reports are going to complement any regulations. Obviously, many brains are better than just one, and our committee helps us hone in on common issues. Our technical reports represent us sharing our industry practices.”

“We also welcome input from any manufacturer,” adds Banting. “if they have ideas they want to bounce off us, we’d be happy to help. We may be a small group in terms of some of these large international companies, but there’s a lot of expertise at this table – and we’d be honoured to help.”

A day in the life

It was a recent overcast and humid September morning after a heavy rainstorm when the mining equipment technical advisory committee met at 8:00 a.m. in the parking lot of the Goodyear off-the-road tire retread plant on Booth Road in North Bay. Safety boots and eye protection were required wear for a facility tour that preceded the meeting. Host Glenn Bennett, Business Centre Manager, greeted committee members as they signed in for the day. 

Members contributing their expertise that day included Al Bouchard and Michael Ferguson from Foraco in North Bay, Darrell Brown from Goldcorp Musselwhite at Opapimiskan Lake north of Thunder Bay, Randy O’Connor and Rick Ragogna from Goldcorp Porcupine in Timmins, Jeff Lilko from Kidd Operations, Glencore in Timmins, and Steve Stamp from DMC Mining in Richmond Hill. Unable to attend, Fred Pelletier from Vale in Sudbury, Alain Landry from Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations, Glencore, and Jerry Wedzicha from the Ministry of Labour sent their regrets. 

stacks of huge tires in retread plant

Rick Banting, electrical and mechanical specialist with WSN North Bay headquarters and former maintenance supervisor at a Kirkland Lake mine, facilitated the meeting while Rick Ragogna chaired. And joining the group for the morning – including the tour – were four guests: Erin, Jeff and Eric – from Goodyear’s Akron, Ohio plant, and Jude deCastro, Goodyear Canada’s regional account manager for off road tires from Orangeville. Ontario mines are known leaders in mining equipment safety in North America, especially when it comes to OTR tires, so these Goodyear representatives were looking forward to meeting the group and getting their input on some tire safety ideas.

Dwarfed by the stacks of gargantuan tires, the group was led by Glenn Bennett through the tidy plant. They were fascinated by the labour-intensive manual processes involved in patching and retreading tires with diameters averaging four to five feet. Over the course of the two-hour tour, the group watched new rubber being blended and hand-molded onto tires for patching and retreading, then cooked in molds and sanded before treads were painstakingly profiled according to model specifications.  Built in 2009, the plant runs 24-hours a day, five days a week as workers annually retread about 7,000 large OTR tires and perform a couple thousand more repairs – mainly serving Ontario underground mines.

worker at tire retread plant for off the road tiresArriving at the boardroom, the group was given a presentation on tire safety by Tibor Lesko from Royal Tire, who called attention to the dangers of heating the studs or rims of tires containing pressurized air. In a cautionary safety video, the digital thermometer continues to build within the tire for a long time after the heat source has been removed, until the tire dramatically explodes with debris flying into the camera. Lesko also documented numerous cases from around the globe showing tire explosions caused by a heat source, including vehicle contact with electrical power lines. 

Known as pyrolysis, these tire explosions can cause permanent injury and death. After the safety talk, the group got down to committee business, pausing only to load sandwiches on plates around noon – a generous luncheon provided by host Goodyear. Throughout the day, they talked about the latest research on wheel and rim safety, machine seat research on whole body vibrations experienced by equipment operators, and fire suppression.

Tibor Lesko presentation on tire safety

The visiting engineers presented a few conceptual prototypes to the group for feedback, which they gave willingly – pointing out why certain suggestions might or might not work for underground mining or mine operations in general. 

The group then covered off topics that included equipment operator line of sight and how they might address this issue with and contribute to international safety group Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table (EMESRT) – a group of mining companies coming together to provide manufacturers with one unified voice for safety improvements to mining equipment. 

Ministry of Labour mining inspection blitz results were reviewed, and it was noted that committee member Randy O’Connor had received an award from the Porcupine Safety Group for having supervised more than 95,000 accident-free man hours at his mine. And by this point in time, his colleague Rick noted that he would have surpassed 100,000 man hours. When asked how he had achieved this milestone, he said, simply, “You’ve got to make the place as safe as you can.” Obviously the ‘internal responsibility system’ is alive and well at the Goldcorp Porcupine Gold operation, noted an impressed committee colleague.

The group discussed funded research they were helping to facilitate, including the assessment of heavy equipment seats for multi-axis vibration, and mining vehicle rim and wheel assemblies. Current committee projects included an underground track haulage technical report, an underground fire reduction strategy that would include annual summaries of mining vehicle fires, and the technical report on fire prevention for rubber-tired mining vehicles.

“Any committee is only as good as the people there at the table, and this is a great group,” says Banting. “I think additional representation and input would only add to the discussion around issues that come up in the mining industry."

The day closed with an informal discussion of incidents and innovative ideas. The members went around the table talking about incidents at their mines, and sharing advice and best practices. So, if you think you know safety, especially when it comes to mining equipment – or the other fields of expertise such as ground control, mine rescue, ventilation, and safety systems, then Workplace Safety North wants to hear from you. 

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