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Reducing risks around conveyor systems

By |  July 20, 2021
Risks can be reduced by following safe work practices during operation and maintenance, as well as by installing proper physical safeguards on conveying equipment. Photo: P&Q Staff

Risks can be reduced by following safe work practices during operation and maintenance, as well as by installing proper physical safeguards on conveying equipment. Photo: P&Q Staff

The Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) reports this month that nine miners were killed this year and 185 were injured in accidents involving powered haulage equipment.

According to MSHA, the nine fatalities into this July are the most involving powered haulage equipment into any July since 2006.

Conveyor systems, which are part of what MSHA characterizes as “powered haulage,” pose dangers while in motion. Fatal accidents occur every year at surface and underground operations when miners work near, inspect, adjust or maintain conveyor belts mines, MSHA says. But risks to workers can be reduced by following safe work practices during operation and maintenance, as well as by installing proper physical safeguards on equipment.

Best safety practices

MSHA regularly promotes best safety practices to help miners stay safe around conveyor systems. Here are several key practices from the agency:

1. Ensure power is disconnected during maintenance and repairs by locking out and tagging out energy at the source. It’s best if the person doing the work personally disconnects and locks the power and restores it following the work.

2. Ensure adequate guarding is installed to prevent any contact between miners and moving parts of a conveyor, including rollers and head and tail areas.

3. Install pull cords for emergency stops at strategic locations to prevent or minimize injury after accidental contact.

4. Never attempt to cross a moving conveyor belt except at suitable crossings.

5. Install practical and usable belt crossing facilities at strategic locations, including near controls, when height allows.

6. Install audible and visible warning systems to signal the start of a conveyor.

7. Establish policies and procedures for performing specific tasks on conveyor belts, and ensure all miners are trained.

Promoting safety

Although conveyors fall under MSHA’s “powered haulage” definition, this area involves so much more equipment – including shuttle cars, scoops, locomotives and front-end loaders.

To promote powered haulage safety, the agency hosted a national Stand Down for Safety Day in July to educate miners, save lives and prevent injuries. All levels of MSHA enforcement staff were slated to visit mines on Stand Down for Safety Day to emphasize the need to adhere to best safety practices for powered haulage, vehicle rollovers and miner training to reduce fatalities and injuries.

Information for this article courtesy of the Mine Safety & Health Administration.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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