Welcome to the second story in our new series, Best Practices Sharing Platform. In the coming weeks, we will take a look at some of the great content that is being curated on the site, which you can access through Valer Digital. Read on!
When a committed team comes together to solve a problem, a great idea can become reality in no time – and that great idea could end up being replicated in Vale mines around the world.
That’s what happened at our Creighton Mine in Sudbury, ON, late March when social distancing guidelines needed to be applied to a two-level cage “elevator” that transports employees underground.
“With the limitations of COVID-19, we couldn’t run our cage at normal spacing,” said Al Vermeersch, Creighton mine manager. “Where we usually fit 35 people on each level of a small cage, we were down to about eight people and, even at that, we didn’t have two-metre spacing, so several of us started tossing around ideas of what we wanted to do.”
The eventual solution came together in a matter of days.
Safety supervisor Jason Labre explained: “On a Friday, we gave our ideas to our team, and they built it over the course of the weekend. Mike Benoit and Daryl Lamarche, both fabricator welders, were the big masterminds behind it. We told them what we wanted, they tweaked our idea a bit, and the end result was near perfect.”
How it works
Placing a divider on each level of a double-decker cage means a total of 20 employees can be transported underground. Each divider is made up of an aluminum frame divided into 10 separate compartments by corrugated plastic sheets that can be easily unhooked for cleaning.
“Between each run, we are spraying it and wiping it down so it’s completely disinfected for the next group,” said Al, adding, “and we are looking at trying out a fogging apparatus to speed up the process.” (Fogging machines are used to distribute aerosol disinfectants into the air, which then settle on surfaces, thus disinfecting them.)
The structure is light enough to carry in and out of the cage when supplies need to be transported underground. Once the prototype was created, the team put it through the standard engineering approval process and started using it.
Word quickly spread to our other mines about the project.
“I’m part of the pandemic team and I had told colleagues I used to work with at North Mine about the project,” said Jason. “They said ‘Can you make us one?’ and I asked our team and they said, ‘Whoever needs one, we’ll answer the call!’ so we built it for them and their shaft crew took it out of the back of the pickup truck and put it directly in their cage, adopted our procedures, and they were back up and running that afternoon.”
Soon, the team was creating inserts for Garson, North Mine and provided plans to Coleman for them to fabricate their own, with Totten mine contracting out the structure to an engineering firm to make.
And now the divider could have an even bigger impact.
“In times of uncertainty and a global pandemic, our team at Creighton Mine have come up with an ingenious way of safely transporting our employees underground,” said Mike McCann, head, Mining and Milling for our North Atlantic Operations. “The divider idea has now been ‘stolen with pride’ at other mines across our operations. Kudos to the Creighton team for their ingenuity and commitment to the safety of all employees.”
The project’s impact has spread to other areas of the mine, as well. The cage divider concept was adapted for Creighton mine cars, which are used to transport employees to underground work areas, using a rail system. These car dividers are now in use on 6800 level.
Al has been impressed with the way his team has gone above and beyond for this project: “There were several groups that worked together to make this a reality. I told the crew I was going to reach out to the other mines, and the welders were 100 per cent on board with that, knowing that it was going to help the social distancing issue that we have in the cage.
“With everything that’s going on right now, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless,” Al continued. “But then people like the ones we have here at Creighton, who are stepping up and moving things forward, prove that the human spirit can overcome, and they make the situation so much better for us all.”
This is just one of the many projects shared on the Best Practices Sharing Platform, which you can access through Valer Digital. Here’s how: Go to Vale.degreed.com 🡪 search for Best Practices 🡪 click on Groups 🡪 Find the group that is of interest to you and click the Join button.
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