Deeply immersed in safety

Deeply immersed in safety


Wednesday, April 6, 2016 - 14:15

Deeply immersed in safety

From a simple need to build safer equipment to an essential step-by-step standardized assessment for equipment procurement, the work of EMESRT proves safety and functionality are not mutually exclusive.

Text: Jean-Paul SmallPhoto: Sandvik


his is a story about change. It’s the story of how miners demanded a voice in the design of equipment, and how OEMs learned to hear that voice and take a human-centric approach to manufacturing safer products. It’s the Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table (EMESRT, pronounced “emerst”) story, and one that Professor Robin Burgess-Limerick, from the Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre (MISHC) at University of Queensland in Australia is proud to have been part of.

An ergonomist, Burgess-Limerick has been conducting research on improving safety and productivity for mining equipment for the past 20 years, much of it funded by the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP). During that time he has visited mines and manufacturers around the world to understand safety issues, produced books on the topic, and held workshops for miners and OEMs to discuss how they can design equipment to reduce injuries, lost-time incidents and fatalities in mining. What he found early in his career was that mining companies weren’t easily able to provide input at the design phase to OEMs about the equipment they were manufacturing – input that would make the equipment inherently safer.

About EMESRT & EDEEP

The Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table, or EMESRT, was established as a formal entity in 2006 facilitated by Prof Jim Joy at the Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre, University of Queensland. In 2012, EMESRT took the next step in the journey of OEM engagement, connecting the OEM equipment-design process with an EMESRT design evaluation method linked to procurement, known as EDEEP. In 2015 the facilitation of EMESRT moved to CRC Mining. See emesrt.org for more information.

“One multinational mining company, even a large one, might not be able to convince an OEM to reconsider its design, but banded together they couldn’t be ignored,” Burgess-Limerick says. “EMESRT arose in 2006 out of an ACARP project conducted by Professor Jim Joy at MISHC. It was an attempt by mining companies to speak in a consolidated voice to OEMs about safety considerations from a design perspective. Its vision was then and is today to eliminate injuries and fatalities associated with operating and maintaining mining equipment.”

At its peak, EMESRT comprised 15 major mining companies. Burgess-Limerick insists that EMESRT has never been in the business of dictating how OEMs should design their equipment, but he notes that design engineers at OEMs don’t necessarily come from a mining background.

“EMESRT became a way to capture the knowledge of the operators and those with experience at mining companies – particularly their understanding of safety risks associated with the use and maintenance of equipment – and consolidate that information into an understandable form to be communicated back to design engineers,” Burgess-Limerick says. “And because it is presented as a consolidated opinion from the members, there is one uniform perspective.”

Philosophies of design

One of the first things that EMESRT did was establish Design Philosophies (DPs). These DPs reflected the collective wisdom of all the people involved in the process, aligning various hazards by putting them together into categories with other similar hazards, all of which reflected a task-based approach to risk assessment.

“Function-based design is tempting, particularly for OEMs focusing on productive equipment,” Burgess-Limerick says, “but there needs to be a parallel concern about what role the person operating the equipment will play. This is the basis of a human-centred, task-based approach to equipment design.”

The aim of the DPs is to provide information to help OEMs design equipment that reduces the risk of unwanted events to an acceptable level.

An ergonomist, Robin Burgess-Limerick has been conducting research on improving safety and productivity for mining equipment for the past 20 years.

An ergonomist, Robin Burgess-Limerick has been conducting research on improving safety and productivity for mining equipment for the past 20 years.

There are eight main areas of concern: access and working at heights; tires and rims; exposure to harmful energies; fire; machine operation and controls; health-impacting factors; manual tasks; and confined spaces and restricted work areas.

With those DPs in place, a task-based design evaluation process known as EMESRT Design Evaluation for Equipment Procurement (EDEEP) was born in 2012. EDEEP provides OEMs and EMESRT members with a means to identify the degree to which newly designed equipment meets the intent of the DPs. It produces a document that provides information to purchasers of earth moving equipment showing how the OEM is working to minimize and mitigate risk through the design of the equipment.

“EDEEP differs from conventional risk-assessment techniques because it focuses on tasks rather than hazards,” Burgess-Limerick says.

The first step is to identify priority tasks that the operator will undertake with the equipment. Next, a task flow chart is developed, after which a task-based risk assessment can begin. This involves identifying risks and offering solutions. After that comes a design evaluation, and finally the safe design information gleaned from the process is presented in a document that highlights the priority tasks, the control measures that are in place and the risks that remain partially uncontrolled.

“EDEEP differs from conventional risk-assessment techniques because it focuses on tasks rather than hazards,” Burgess-Limerick says.

The first step is to identify priority tasks that the operator will undertake with the equipment. Next, a task flow chart is developed, after which a task-based risk assessment can begin.

 

 

 

This involves identifying risks and offering solutions. After that comes a design evaluation, and finally the safe design information gleaned from the process is presented in a document that highlights the priority tasks, the control measures that are in place and the risks that remain partially uncontrolled.“So now, not only do purchasers have a uniform document from OEMs to measure their equipment’s safety risks, the process itself can be adopted by OEMs to meet their own safe design needs,” Burgess-Limerick says. 

In the end, he is satisfied that the process is pushing the industry to a safer place. 

“From my point of view, it’s about trying to persuade everyone to get the right information so that both sides can reduce injury and health risks associated with operation and maintenance of equipment,” he says. “And to remind everyone involved that the attributes that make equipment safer are the same ones that make them productive.”