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2010 — Health and Safety
A tailor-made hammer improves health and safety – and productivity
With Söderberg technology, one of the key elements of a strong performance is stability of the anode.
While it is relatively simple to control many of the factors required – changing the studs and the composition of the briquettes used for fuel, for example – other tasks are much more difficult. One such case is breaking off points, which are nubs of carbon that form under the anode and destabilize the distribution of current in the electrolytic pots. Because they are difficult to access and in contact with the bath, they are exposed to temperatures exceeding 960° C.
In the past, this task was performed manually using a sledgehammer. We raised the anode and knocked on a metal rod, which absolutely had to be properly positioned under the anode, to break off the points. The process was arduous, physically demanding and exposed workers to the gases and heat generated by the molten metal. In the last few years, we switched to using a “Bazooka” which, as the name suggests, is a tool whose precision is difficult to control and that tends to damage the anode and the 15- and 25-tonne cylinders. It also destabilizes the pot. When attempting to break off a point, large pieces of carbon can fall into the pot, which causes a whole new set of problems...
At the request of employees, and with their assistance, we decided to design a precision air hammer to perform this task. Dany Létourneau led the team that developed and tested the tool. Its innovative design considered operability, reliability and safety. Operators can now position the steel rod and safely activate the pneumatic device using a remote control. The air hammer is very precise in breaking off the point, while minimizing the impact on the anode. This represents an enormous improvement both in terms of pot stability and worker health and safety.
The success of this initiative is founded on the joint effort of the Maintenance and Söderberg Production teams, as well as the Alcoa/Hatch Alliance and Dynamic Concept.
From left to right: Dany Létourneau, Éric Bernatchez, Stéphane Lévesque, Marc Lavoie, Jean-Pierre Barbeau, Mathieu Lacourse, Mathieu Gauthier and Vasile Ranta