October 25, 2012

Deschambault Smelter recognized with regional safety award

Alcoa’s Deschambault Smelter was awarded first prize in the Large Enterprise category during the Grands prix santé et sécurité du travail de la CSST (Quebec Workers Safety Insurance Board Awards) for the Easy Lock Lamothe tool developed by one of its operators, Luc Lamothe.

The winning project is a simple, easy to use tool, designed by Lamothe, which allows workers to safely and ergonomically connect baking equipment to the natural gas network.  There are 72 such connections to the natural gas supply in the Baking Furnace sub-sector of the smelter.  Every 24 hours, when baking equipment is switched, four disconnection/connection operations must be carried out using a 2 ¾ inch pipe to link the baking equipment to the natural gas network.
In the past, this process was performed manually, with the operator often having to kneel down to complete the task.  Help from a colleague was usually required because, depending on the temperature, the tightness of the second valve, the condition of the couplings (some may be worn but not enough to warrant replacement) and the height of the connection, the operation could be difficult and require considerable physical force.  A buildup of gas behind the coupling during this process added to the difficulty of the task.  At the same time, this method damaged the pipe and posed a risk of hand injury.
Lamothe is one of the operators who regularly have to perform this connection/disconnection task.  He came up with the idea of a lever-based tool in direct response to the challenges faced by him and his colleagues.
When designing the tool, Lamothe sought to achieve the following objectives:  eliminate the risks of strain-related injuries (shoulders, back, elbows, fingers), enable an operator to perform the task upright and unassisted, eliminate the risk of hand injuries and pipe damage, and finally, to make the task generally easier and faster, despite the pressure from the gas accumulated behind the coupling.
Lamothe felt extremely honoured to receive this award.  The General Manager of the Deschambault Smelter, Sylvain Poissant, added: “At the Deschambault Smelter, we encourage and support the members of our team in suggesting solutions and ideas.  It is part of our values: we believe that our people are at the heart of our current results and our future prosperity.  Luc’s initiative is an example for everyone; in addition to improving the health and safety of our workers, the tool he designed and then developed with his colleagues has helped increase our productivity.”
video featuring the Easy Lock Lamothe has been produced and made available by the CSST.
About the Deschambault Smelter
The Deschambault Smelter employs 500 people and produces over 265,000 metric tons of aluminum annually.  In addition to the Deschambault Smelter, Alcoa Canada Global Primary Products (GPP Canada) operates the Bécancour Smelter (ABI) and Bécancour Rod Plant, as well as the Baie-Comeau Smelter.  These four plants have an annual production capacity of nearly one million metric tons of ingots, castings, billets and aluminum rods.  GPP Canada has close to 3,400 employees and its activities generate annual economic spin-offs of more than $1.2 billion in Québec.  For more information, go to www.alcoa.com/canada.

Click image to enlarge.

The CSST presented the award on October 25 to the team from the Deschambault Smelter. Luc Lamothe is in the front row, fourth from the left.