Rio Tinto & No Bolt partner to solve the problem of safely accessing and maintaining conveyer idlers.

In 2015, Rio Tinto Iron Ore (Paraburdoo) partnered with No Bolt Operations Pty Ltd to address an identified risk associated with the maintenance of the conveyor. Through Rio Tinto’s Critical Risk Management programme (CRM),the changing over of conveyor idlers was identified and targeted as an area to address and improve through consultation with the workforce with the goal of reducing risk and improving safety and workflow.

No Bolt and Rio Tinto worked together to develop a solution which would:

  1. Reduce the risk of a fall from height
  2. Reduce the risk of a manual handling injury
  3. Reduce the risk of tripping hazards
  4. Ensure people and powered machinery are separated

Access to the idlers was previously provided through the use of a temporary structure (scaffolding). To enable the scaffold to be relocated along the 400m of conveyor system, a telehandler was used to reposition the scaffold. Once in position, scaffolders would review, adjust and sign off on the scaffold structure.

The requirement to relocate the scaffold limited the length and width of the structure which greatly reduced the working area and ability to stow the idlers on the platform deck. Furthermore, operators were required to use a ladder to access and egress the working deck. There were additional challenges with uneven ground requiring skilled scaffolders to continue adjusting the legs to suit.

Key issues/risks

  • Risk of a fall – scaffolding did not provide effective fall coverage
  • Manual handling – idlers were passed up through to the scaffolding deck
  • Use of a ladder – the scaffold required the use of a scaffolding rung ladder
  • Tripping hazard – the rail created a tripping hazard
  • Separation – mobile plant and equipment
  • Heat stroke/Sun burn

Consultation – Supervisors, team members, HSRs from different shifts were provided with a basic concept which was refined into a 3D design for review and comment. This concept design was then turned into a manufacturing pack and eventually the finished product.

Working closely with Rio Tinto team, we developed a bespoke solution designed to operate on the existing rail system by straddling the conveyor belt and eliminating and/or controlling the following risks:

  • Falls from height
  • Manual handling
  • Use of a ladder (as a lessor control)
  • Tripping hazards
  • Separation – mobile plant and equipment
  • Sun/Heat stroke

How does it work?
The Rail Mounted Conveyor Platform straddles the conveyor and uses the existing rail to provide safe coverage to around 400m of conveyor. Sitting on custom bogie wheels, the structure spans 7m, is over 4m high and 5m long. It consists of 2 working platforms specifically designed for the installation and removal of idlers, weighs 2000kg, yet only require 18N of force to move the platform.