Wedge Removal Hammer - Mecrus Pty Ltd
Best solution to a workplace health and safety issue - 2012 Awards
A Pneumatic Hammer device has been designed and constructed that has eliminated a manual handling intensive task associated with routine change out of metal forms on a briquetting press. Mecrus is an Asset Management Operations and Maintenance company working in the energy, water and agribusiness sectors.
At its briquetting plant in Morwell it manufactures in excess of 250,000 tonnes of briquettes per year from dried brown coal.
There has been a long history of back strain issues associated with this task and when Mecrus took over the operations of the briquetting plant some years ago we committed to changing this situation.
What was the issue/s at the workplace?
Changing out forms on briquette presses is an activity that occurs multiple times per week. During operation of the press metal wedges become very tight in the press and require a significant and multiple shock force to dislodge them. This has traditionally been done by an employee using a 28 LB (12.7kg) sledge hammer to strike the wedge multiple times in order to move it.
This practice over a long history has resulted in many strains and degenerative back issues and had recently become even more of an issue as the frequency of carrying out form changes had increased.
What did you do to control it/resolve it?
We engaged a Design Engineer with power industry experience to create a device that would eliminate the need for the 12.7kg sledge hammer.
A design brief was prepared (simple to use, quick to set up and safe to operate) and a working group of employees established.
The hammer is quickly and easily connected to the press by hooks and is operated by a push button and uses two air cylinders to push a mass against a spring in order to "charge" the hammer. When the air pressure is released the stored energy released from the spring forces the mass to connect with a striker bar that then contacts the wedge and loosens it.
This allows the wedge to be removed by two operations of a push button compared with multiple swings of a 14kg sledge hammer.
Who did you talk to about the issue/s or who helped you resolve it?
There was high level support for this project from the Managing Director in view of the historical safety issue associated with this task. A working group of employees that carried out form changes was established to work closely with the Design Engineer that had been engaged.
A site OHS Representative was also involved with the process.
A Mecrus engineering student was nominated as the Project Leader.
A series of meetings on site, trials of component prototypes throughout the design phase, design reviews and updates with employees and progressive risk assessments were carried out over the course of the project.
What was the outcome? How is the workplace better now?
The pneumatic hammer is now used for all briquette press form changes and has become the standard tool for this task. Employee feedback continues to be positive and supportive with further suggestions for minor refinements and improvements still being made.
The sledge hammer is no longer required and has been disposed of.
A Standard Operating Procedure has been developed for the hammer with the involvement of employees, the design engineer and an OHS representative.
The manual handling component of removing the wedges has been completely eliminated and reduced by in excess of 75% for the total form change process.
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