Safety First at Aggregate and Quarry Facilities

SOURCE: Equipment Journal | March 29, 2024

Drilling, blasting and hauling are among the various tasks workers take on in aggregate, quarry and mining operations. Given the challenging nature of these jobs, it becomes imperative to mitigate potential hazards. One effective approach is the integration of safety technologies on crawler excavators, wheel loaders and articulated dump trucks (ADTs).

Here are a few noteworthy developments in equipment for aggregate and quarry operations.

Transparent bucket 

Today’s mining and quarry equipment is designed and built with better visibility to operate as safely as possible. One newer feature on Develon wheel loaders is Transparent Bucket technology that helps minimize blind spots for wheel loader operators when the bucket is raised.

“The Transparent Bucket technology offers a supplemental view from a monitor inside the wheel loader cab,” said Jacob Sherman, Dealer and Product Marketing Manager at Develon.

“This technology allows the operator to ‘see through’ the bucket to the area in front of the machine. The feature is available for new dash 7 Series wheel loaders from Develon.”

With an unobstructed view in front of the wheel loader bucket, operators can see objects such as large rocks, obstacles and even people in front of the machine — objects that would otherwise be obstructed from view by the bucket.

Camera systems

Equipment operators in mining and quarry applications must see their environment to stay safe. Around view monitor (AVM) camera systems are becoming increasingly popular on wheel loaders. They display a full view of the machine’s surroundings, giving operators greater confidence when working in tight working conditions. Depending on the machine, AVM systems can provide up to 360 degrees of visibility on the monitors inside the machine’s cab.

“AVM systems allow operators to see potential hazards and obstacles that may not be visible from their seat, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries,” Sherman said. “They also improve productivity and efficiency by reducing the time required for operators to look around and check their surroundings manually.”

Another key safety feature becoming standard equipment on much of today’s heavy equipment is a rearview camera. With a rearview camera, mining and quarry operators can be sure they are safely maneuvering around any object or person within their line of sight.

“The camera view can be seen on the LCD monitor in the cab by simply pressing a button to activate the feature,” Sherman said. “Some manufacturers have increased the camera’s field of view or have included sensors to alert the operator when they are about to hit something.”

Object detection 

Object detection improves safety by enhancing awareness and minimizing blind spots in challenging applications, like when working in mines or quarries. The sensors emit a sound to alert machine operators when they are about to bump into an object. The sound may get louder or more frequent the closer the machine gets to the object. The sensors are often supported by a camera that allows the operator to see what’s behind them as they are reversing.

LED lights 

Mining and quarry operations often take place in expansive and challenging terrains and generate dust and debris, making natural lighting insufficient. Operations also may start early in the morning and extend into nighttime. Safety lighting, including LED headlights and taillights, improves visibility for operators, allowing them to safely navigate in low-light conditions. This is critical for preventing accidents and collisions, especially when working around other equipment or people.

In addition, select wheel loaders can be equipped with optional rotating beacons, which serve as powerful warning signals to alert others. These lights can be activated when the loader is in operation, signalling to other workers and equipment operators that the loader is in motion.

Transmission retarder 

Some manufacturers offer a transmission retarder adjustment lever for ADTs to help with braking in mining and quarry applications. Many offer four levels of retarder force: 100 per cent, 75 per cent, 50 per cent and 25 per cent. As an alternative, a keypad button may serve the same function as the lever. The ADT’s accelerator pedal continues to allow for quick retarder power reduction with a slight press.

Cab design 

Heavy construction equipment manufacturers are introducing design updates for the mining and aggregate industry that prioritize operator comfort and safety. The new cab designs typically feature a wider door and windows, increasing the amount of natural light in the cab and offering unobstructed views of the job site, which can reduce accidents.

“Window sizes and glass area have increased, giving operators a better view of the material being handled and offering growing visibility of the surroundings,” Sherman said. “We also offer floor-to-ceiling cab windows for optimal side visibility.”

The doors on heavy equipment feature wider openings, making it easier for operators to enter and exit the cabs. Additionally, some models come with a sliding door that saves space and is easier to use.

Air-suspension seats and heated and cooled seats are being offered to enhance operator comfort, which is particularly useful when working quarries. The climate control system keeps the temperature inside the cab comfortable and consistent throughout the workday.

Safety technologies on today’s heavy equipment not only help operators but can boost the overall success of aggregate and quarry operations.

Pairing these technologies with ongoing training, collaborating with industry experts and following regulatory standards will help further contribute to the development of a safety culture.

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