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Improving Mine Site Safety Through Better Tire Management

I was perusing through some industry websites the other day and found an excellent reminder to all of us in the mining industry of how we can maintain improve our overall mine safey through better tire awareness. With the tire imbalance continuing to loom over our immediate future, reminders like this our even more important than ever!

Throughout history, mining has been considered one of the world’s most hazardous professions. Today, even with new technology and advanced safety programs in place, a mine can still be a potentially dangerous environment – with larger and larger machines constantly moving tons of material in every direction at increasingly faster speeds.
The good news is that statistics indicate that mining safety in general is much better today than it was 25 years ago. According to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), mining deaths in the United States have dipped from 242 in 1977 to a record low 56 in 2003. MSHA credits this decrease in fatalities to a focus on three key areas: enforcement of rules, education and training of mining personnel, and technical assistance for the mining community.

With an increasing emphasis on making mine sites safer places to work, mine managers are, more often, educating themselves and their crews on the factors that cause accidents and the best practices that can prevent them. This includes training and technical assistance on every aspect of the machines and operations.

As tires become larger to support even larger machines, tire safety management becomes even more important along with tire safety training. Managing tire safety in a mine site is an effective way to decrease accidents – while improving productivity and prolonging tire life. In developing a tire safety program, mine managers should work with their service provider and/or tire manufacturer and safety personnel to answer several important questions, including:

What safety areas of our operation need improvement?
What safety behaviors need to be changed?
Will training change those behaviors or are the issues more strategic?
What steps should be taken in order to create a sustainable tire safety program?
There are four main preventable causes of tire related accidents at mine sites. They are:

The operator did not know what to do when something started to go wrong.
The operator did not have time to properly complete a job and over-tasked the tires, or equipment.
The operator was using the wrong tool/equipment to complete a job.
The operator failed to comply with standard accepted safety practices.
In order to begin developing a tire safety management program for a mine site, managers need to have a firm grasp of the main concern areas. This will facilitate a tire safety management program designed to address the needs of that mine site.

Areas which should be reviewed include: operational hazards management, site operating conditions, tire selection and management, and tire inspection and safety training. If a mine site manager isn’t sure about tire designs and selections for the mine site machinery, a tire service provider or tire manufacturer should be consulted.

For example, the tread compound will determine factors such as heat resistance, cut resistance and wear performance. Distance limits will affect Ton Mile Per Hour (TMPH), load and speed of the mining equipment. Tire dealers should be able to answer questions about any of these factors regarding tire selection. Service providers and tire manufacturers can also be helpful in developing programs for tire management. Dealers should be able to help or direct a mine site manager to information and programs regarding daily safety walkthroughs, supervisor training, site severity reviews, pressure maintenance, tire training, dispatch training, best practices, tire selection and monitoring operators.

Management of site conditions is very important in relation to tire safety. Factors include: operator diligence, road maintenance, road design, spillage, rainfall, team accountability, payload, cycle length, push outs and ambient temperature.

Equipment related factors, which potentially affect tire performance and safety, include: vehicle alignment, sideboards, suspension conditions, rock ejectors and strut pressure. Once mine site managers have considered all of the factors that result in safe tire operation and use, they can develop a clear understanding of how to communicate and implement a tire safety program for their mine site.

Mine site managers should remember that the keys to safety are constant vigilance, training and awareness. Safe tire operations require management direction and accountability. Supervisors need to monitor their teams, and they need to constantly re-emphasize the importance of safety. Managers need to make time to train and show their personnel how to use their tools and equipment safely.

Implementing a tire safety program is essential to improving mining safety. It requires a collaborative effort between tire service providers, tire manufacturers, mine site managers and mine workers. The mining industry has come a long way to improve its safety statistics, but tire safety education and awareness is crucial to continued mining safety success.

Safety is a continuous examination of potential hazards and actions that can prevent accidents. Tires, and tire-related accidents, are one of the controllable hazards in a mining industry that can be prevented. By implementing a tire safety program at the mines, the entire mining team’s awareness and education will increase. As a result, the goals of safe tire operations, lowering operating costs and improving productivity, will be achieved.

Improving Mine Site Safety Through Better Tire Management

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