Perilously, some African mines regard sound conveyor belt safety management, as the least of their priorities, fit to be addressed at a later stage when it’s convenient. However, this reactive approach can be disastrous, as Robin Cullen owner and expert from Electroton, warns.
Surprisingly or not, despite an embarrassment of financial resources at their disposal, some African mines still encounter challenges with managing the systems used to communicate the conveyor trips/interlocks and daily information. From a local point allowing for easy operator access and usage and from a remote location allowing for centralised control, the systems remain inadequate, the resulting factors are loss of time, capital and abnormally high associated running costs.
“Potential savings through initial capital outlay and equipment operational advantages, which make the solution less expensive from a cost of ownership perspective, are lost,” says Robin Cullen owner and expert from Electroton.
The best approach
To address the challenge, initially, a full investigation of the intended application should be undertaken.
Subsequently, in accordance with the conveyor manufacturers’ specifications and the Mine Health and Safety Act, the equipment chosen should be equipped with features incorporating a local operational control as well as a remote reporting system capability. Ultimately, this will result in minimal infrastructure costs.
Over and above, a dedicated hard wire safe technology and a remote reporting system ensure legislative compliance, whilst inspection and testing can be provided both instantaneously or through a data base.
The advantages they bring to conveyor belt management are immense, notably:
• Single cable installation,
• Potentially risk free operation,
• No Cable Trays,
• No RIO Panels or distributed I/O required
• No additional junction panels and boxes required
• No Power supplies and or amplifiers/bridges required
• Easy and simplistic installation, termination and system interconnectivity
It is entirely for the users benefit – not for authorities – for users to adhere to good practice in conveyor belt management.
According to Cullen, the new legislation requires that guarding interlocks on conveyors has to be interlocked into the safety circuit of the conveyor.
“The new regulation requires that should a guard be removed the conveyor should not be able to be started/run. In addition, the new legislation states that testing of such guard interlocks be done on a three monthly basis and proof thereof has to be made available on request from any mine inspector,” he says.
Conveyor safety: a valid case
There are numerous reasons why mines should take safety risks that they face more seriously than some do. It is always healthy to assume that the level of risks is high all the time – loss of life, loss of production and machinery damage all being the immediate hazards.
There risk of an accident occurring on a conveyor belt could be just as high as any materials handling (who knows? it could even be worse).
Given the heavy toil they endure due to carrying large quantities for long periods of time, conveyors are prone to incidents, more especially if regular maintenance is overlooked and safety measures are poorly implemented or not implemented at all.
It is crucial to ensure that defects and damage to conveyor belt components are detected as soon as they occur in order to keep production loss time to a minimum. The added advantage of capturing and reporting of such information by means of a data base (SQL or similar) is mere proof that prevention is better than cure.