Earthmoving News, Workplace Health & Safety

Recommendations released after dozer drops into void

After a stockpiling incident last year, Resources Safety & Health Queensland has produced a set of recommendations to improve dozer safety

In November last year a bulldozer fell backwards into a coal valve void during train load-out operations and government safety body Resources Safety & Health Queensland (RSHQ) has released a set of recommendations in response to this and other dozer incidents.

In a safety notice about the incident, RSHQ says that while a ramp was being constructed onto the stockpile it is likely the coal valve became bridged, partly due to material being pushed significantly beyond the valve position.

The site had applied physical indicator poles outside of the stockpile footprint for dozer operators to use as a visual reference. However, there weren’t sufficient indicators for operators to accurately calculate the position of the valve and the poles weren’t always visible.

A lack of communication between different dozer operators on the site also meant that the bulldozer push commenced before operators had visually confirmed the valve’s location, leading to one dozer slumping backwards into the void created by the valve as the bridging material shifted. The operator was recovered without injury.

RSHQ says that a key issue was the lack of GPS and geofencing, as well as the shortfall in communication between the operators and lack of confirmation of the valve location before pushing commenced.

In its recommendations to help prevent this occurring in future, RSHQ says that site senior executives (SSEs) should:

  • review effectiveness of site systems for coal stockpile management, including a review of the underpinning risk management for those systems
  • identify operational areas that are considered to be ‘high risk tasks’, such as coal stockpiles, working near bodies of water, bund construction and bench preparation
  • implement engineering systems that can assist in identifying coal valve positions (e.g. GPS-enabled mobile plant)
  • implement geofencing capability on the operational mobile plant
  • ensure operators are complying with Safety and Health Management System requirements
  • review both aided and self-escape strategies for the scenario of dozer engulfment on coal stockpiles
  • review current self-contained breathing apparatus capacity (fit for purpose) available in mobile plant working on stockpiles. The risk management system should consider the placement of this equipment if the cabin of the mobile plant is inverted or on its roof. Self-contained breathing apparatus must be restrained so it doesn’t become a projectile in a rollover. The risk of heat damage from direct sunlight or excessive ambient temperature in the cabin of the mobile plant must also be considered.
  • commence due diligence and risk management for implementing semi-autonomous or autonomous dozer operations in areas considered to be ‘high risk’
  • review their site’s risk profile if coal valves are used as a preference to stacker reclaimers. SSEs should review the risk management underpinning the decision made for design, construction and operation of infrastructure for coal stockpile management.

Finally, coal stockpile operators should: follow site standard operating procedures; ensure GPS systems are functioning to identify coal valve locations; and conduct local area hazard management as required by the site’s risk management system, particularly for when changes to a task occur. This may include change in people involved in the task, environmental conditions, changes to equipment, process or identifying an unforeseen hazard.


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