Caterpillar dealer WesTrac is looking to remove personnel from within the footprint of live equipment in up to 90% of common maintenance tasks with its new Elimination of Live Work (ELW) project.
The ELW project has involved WesTrac staff from across the business identifying technology, tools and work processes that can eliminate safety risks involved with people working near live equipment.
Initially introduced to WesTrac by a major mining client as part of ongoing safety improvement initiatives, it has since gained industry-wide focus, the company said.
WesTrac’s Newman Branch Manager, James Davey, said the aim of the project, which involves a range of mining-focused original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and service teams, was to eliminate significant risk factors associated with working on heavy machinery and equipment.
“The purpose of this project is not to deal with little nicks and cuts, it’s about saving lives,” Davey said. “If things go wrong when people are working on live equipment with multiple moving parts, and that can weigh hundreds of tonnes, the results could be disastrous.
“It’s an area of major focus across the Australian mining and construction sectors to continually reduce risks and enhance safety performance.”
Since commencing its own ELW project in 2018, WesTrac has devised a range of specialised tools, some itself and some in collaboration with mining companies and other OEMs.
One such tool, affectionately known as R2D2, is a remote-controlled camera mounted on an anti-vibrating base that can swivel 360° to carry out a wide range of inspections on live machines. Controlled from a tablet, the camera provides the operator with a real-time view and can record the session for closer follow-up investigation.
Davey says the camera’s resolution and 30-times optical zoom allow operators to read gauges, look for leaks and even carry out pre-maintenance checks.
“Inspections are often the first part of a task and this camera allows those carrying out the work to stay out of the danger zone, particularly if a machine is running,” he said.
WesTrac has also developed an ELW Field Service Kit with a range of tooling to allow both mobile and workshop-based mechanics to carry out numerous inspection and testing requirements without the need to work in proximity of high-risk areas, it said.
Davey said the company was currently developing work instructions, expected to be complete within the next three months, and would then deploy specialists to WesTrac’s branches, stores and sites to assist in embedding ELW practices.
“By December this year, we expect all sites to be equipped with the required tools, technology and understanding to carry out 90% of live work tasks under the ELW work practices,” he said. “For the remaining 10% of tasks that still require personnel to work within the footprint, we’re enhancing procedures to ensure an even greater focus on risk elimination.”
Davey said while equipment and service providers typically worked in competition with one another, when it came to safety the attitude was completely different.
“When it comes to saving lives and reducing risk, everyone is willing to share technology, tools and knowledge to drive better outcomes,” he said.
WesTrac has already been recognised for its ELW work with a safety award from BHP and recognition of the ELW program from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.
“Over the next 12 months, our goal is to transition ELW from a project to the standard ‘way we work’,” Davey concluded.