Employee-Developed Solution Reduces Safety
Risks, Improves Efficiencies
Recognizing there was an industry-wide safety and efficiency
issue with how large bearings used in mining equipment were lifted, Alcoa's
Western Australia Mining Group engaged crew members to design, fabricate, and
test a new lifting jig that has since earned recognition for being an innovative
Within Alcoa's Australian mining operation, hundreds
of bearings used in large equipment like crushers and conveyers need to be
changed on a periodic basis. Many of these bearings weigh more than 20 kilograms
(44 pounds), a weight beyond that safely lifted by the average individual.
Traditional lifting techniques used within the mining industry include
web and wire slings or lightweight chains that are slip-knotted around the
bearing and then connected to an overhead crane, which handles the lifting. An
inherent safety issue is the potential for the bearing to slip when
transitioning from a vertical to horizontal position or when tension on the line
is lessened. In addition, the traditional lifting techniques require the bearing
to be completely clean, which adds time to the maintenance process.
During a hazard identification exchange at a routine safety summit in
2008, Alcoa's mining group discussed the bearing lifting issue and devised a
preliminary solution. Crew members then drafted drawings and built a prototype
lifting jig, which tested successfully. An Alcoa engineer evaluated the solution
and generated engineering drawings to ensure standards were met.
lifting jig uses a metal band that wraps around the outside of the bearing. A
bolt permits fine adjustment to keep the bearing from slipping out of the band.
The top section of the jig has a horizontal bar containing an eye hook for
connection to the crane. As tension is applied to this bar, the band around the
bearing tightens even further.
In addition to addressing the safety
issues, the new jig also brings efficiencies to the process by making it easier
to position the bearing during installation and not requiring the bearing to be
In 2008, the jig earned a "highly commended" in the
Innovative Mining Solutions category of the Australian Mining Prospect