Telstra WA Business Woman 2012 of the Year Julie Shuttleworth has tackled safety issues around underground mining tyre changing by helping bring a new invention to the market – the 'low profile tyre handler'.
Ms Shuttleworth works for Barrick Gold at the Granny Smith Mine in Kalgoorlie and according to her, tyre changing in underground confined spaces has caused serious injuries throughout the mining industry.
“We had a workplace accident at Granny Smith Mine that resulted in one of our team members getting injuries when a tyre toppled on him, whilst tyre changing,” she says.
She explains accepted practice is risky as it requires personnel to semi-manually change tyres using fork tynes on either a forklift or integrated tool carrier.
“The tyre is transported towards the mobile equipment and manipulated by forks to get the tyre in position,” she says.
“The tyre is not stable and risk is the tyre can topple off the forks.”
To avoid any more injuries, Shuttleworth and her team at Barrick Gold have developed the “low profile tyre handler”, which unlike other tyre handlers for open pit equipment; this is designed for underground equipment where there is limited space between the tyre and the wheel arch.
“The unit is an engineering control, which is more effective than personal protective equipment and administrative procedures,” she says.
“It completely removes people from around the tyre while it is being positioned for tyre changing – the tyre is securely held in place by arms around the tyre, eliminating potential for the tyre to topple over.
“A key feature is that the unit is designed so it can fit whatever equipment is already at the mine site – it can also be used on underground mobile equipment in the underground environment, or in the site’s workshop.”
Functionality of the unit includes ability to tilt back and forth, pick up and place down a tyre, rotate tyre to line-up with wheel studs, as well as adjustable length arms and lights.
Ms Shuttleworth thinks the low profile tyre handler fills a safety gap that all mine managements should consider filling.
“Widespread use of this product in Australia and internationally will help prevent injuries and fatalities from tyre changing,” she says.
“I look forward to seeing the low profile tyre handler implemented as general maintenance tooling on all underground mines across the world.”
While Granny Smith Mine is already using the technology, several more units have been sent to other Barrick Gold mines across WA and even to the US, after the invention was displayed at this year’s Las Vegas Mining Expo.