BMA's Saraji mine.
BMA's Saraji mine.

Bullet proof vest technology helps CQ miner snag award

CQ MINER Josh Leppard's passion for competitive sailing has helped him take home the 2019 Innovation Award at the 2019 Queensland Mining Industry Safety and Health Conference.

Mr Leppard, an overburden supervisor at BHP Mitsubishi Alliance's Saraji mine, and the team won for their synthetic lightweight couplings - used to pull mobile equipment across the mining industry - in a clever alternative to the standard 110 kilogram pull ring and metal shackles being used.

The Saraji soft couplings developed over the past six months have been "super-sized" to suit the mining industry, weigh about eight kilograms and are made of Dyneema, one of the world's strongest fibres.

They have also been braided with Technora - the same product used for bullet proof vests and fire fighting clothing - which gives high heat and chemical resistance as well as protection against chafe.


Alliara holding the coupling
Alliara holding the coupling Supplied

Mr Leppard, who enjoys sailing when he is not at the mine site, harnessed his knowledge of the marine industry to develop the soft couplings, which not only reduce the safety risks associated with heavy lifting, but also remove physical barriers that may stop some men and women from completing the task.

"Being a yacht racer for many years, we moved away from using metal shackles four or five years ago and now only use synthetic couplings that are made specifically for marine purposes," he said.

"These couplings are lightweight but provide exceptional strength as you would expect to be needed on offshore race yachts."

After presenting the invention at this week's conference, as well as overseas in a few months' time, Mr Leppard hopes the team will be able to share learnings with others to make the industry safer.


WIN:  Josh Leppard holding the award
WIN: Josh Leppard holding the award Supplied

The team worked with independent testers to verify and strength test the shackles so they could be used on site.

Saraji is now in the process of getting soft recovery shackles and soft recovery couplings certified so they can be used in lifting operations which will substitute the existing heavy weight lifting shackles.

The team are also working through and obtaining a "FRAS" rating so they can be used underground for longwall moves.

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