The EMESRT Story

All mining companies face a common problem concerning the future viability of their social licence to operate: ensuring that heavy earth-moving equipment is operated and maintained under all site conditions without causing harm to people.

Data implicates poor risk management and human factors design issues in the fatalities, injuries and illnesses associated with heavy earth-moving equipment incidents when unwanted events such as collisions with light vehicles, isolation problems, falls from height, loss of control and problems such as fatigue, heat, noise and dust occur. Obviously, good risk management and human factors design practices are essential to eliminating or mitigating these risks.

It was in 2004 that informal discussion on a joint customer approach to improve the safety of Earth Moving Equipment was first mooted by mining companies, but it was not until late 2005 that the new approach was designed. This countered the practice of companies telling OEMs the solutions to the industry’s risk problems and engaged with them to improve equipment design at the factory level.

The Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table, or EMESRT, was established as a formal entity in 2006. The Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre (MISHC) at The University of Queensland was invited to facilitate and coordinate this innovative engagement process.  Jim Joy, Director and Professor of Risk Management at MISHC brought Human Factors expertise to the MISHC component of EMESRT.

This project was originally funded by the Australian Coal Association Research Program, ACARP, which actively supports health and safety research within the Australian Coal Industry but is now a fully industry-funded entity.

In 2006, EMESRT took initial steps towards establishing an engagement process between OEMs and mining customers; a process designed to accelerate the development and adoption of leading practice designs of earth moving equipment to minimize Health and Safety risks. EMESRT members agreed that their ability to align company requirements and expectations for human factors design would be critical for presenting a ‘common voice’ to OEMs.

The outcome of this alignment has been the development of Design Philosophies that present a common viewpoint on objectives, general design outcomes and risks or, in general terms, the ‘problems’ to be mitigated.  These Design Philosophies outline the key issues where improved human factors designs could reduce unwanted events associated with equipment operation or maintenance.

Mining companies generally manage risk to ALARP, or As Low As Reasonably Practicable, through the use of the Hierarchy of Controls, otherwise known as the Safety Precedence Sequence.  EMESRT identified the ‘Design Vacuum’ that commonly exists between current factory designs and customer needs to retrofit equipment to meet mine site requirements. Over time, local dealers have attempted to fill this design vacuum by retrofitting customer driven solutions, despite the fact that they generally lack appropriate design resources. The need for redesign also creates a long lead-time to users, resulting in higher initial and ongoing costs to the mining customer.

At the OEM meetings in 2006, EMESRT presented the first two example design philosophies.

In late 2007, EMESRT met again with the OEMs to introduce EMESRT resource materials that had been developed as freely available online resources. The OEMs responded enthusiastically to the material presented and expressed support for future engagement. They encouraged EMESRT to continue with the development and dissemination of educational and information resources to assist the process.

2009 saw EMESRT become four focused groups consisting of Surface Mining, Exploration Drilling, Underground Hard Rock and Underground Coal & Soft Rock.

By 2011, this initiative had expanded to 14 members and design challenges had also expanded from surface haul trucks to all large mining equipment used in surface, underground coal and metal mining, as well as exploration drilling.

In 2012, EMESRT has taken the next step in the journey of OEM engagement, connecting the OEM equipment design process with an EMESRT design evaluation method linked to procurement – known as EDEEP.

The process provides an opportunity for OEMs to demonstrate their application of task-based design review, clearly linking design features to priority issues, demonstrating existing design features and assisting with effective continuous improvement.