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Primed for SAFETY: Safer blasting on site

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The visibility of blasting systems and devices whenever loading explosives on a bench is critical to safety. 

A lack of visibility, particularly of initiating systems on the bench, can increase the likelihood of an accident occurring when working around blastholes. 

The danger was demonstrated earlier this year when a worker took a wrong turn and drove onto a bench loaded for shotfiring; completely unaware of where they were. 

Contact between initiating components and vehicles on the bench can result in potentially fatal incidents, as well as cutting productivity and increasing costs. 

Seeing this contact issue, Orica has developed a blasting accessory to increase safety on site, and especially on the bench. 

Orica initially started work on this problem back in 2010, carrying out a review into bench blasting related incidents with the QLD Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI). 

One of the main areas it identified for improvement was large hole operations, where there is the potential for physical contact between vehicles, detonators and boosters, prior to priming. 

The review resulted in the company not only improving its procedural controls but also developing a holding device to minimise the likelihood of contact. 

It carried out a number of assessments to figure out what the key requirements of the product were, and what its design needed to achieve, bringing in design consultants to assist with the development.  

The result was the creation of Orica's PrimeSafe - a simple safety device which creates greater visibility of the initiating systems on a bench, particularly for large open cut coal and hard rock mines. 

"PrimeSafe stores up to three boosters and three detonators at the blast hole collar, thereby reducing the loss of products in drill cuttings," Orica says. 

Matthew Burke, Orica's operations efficiency manager for Australia Pacific was involved in the early review, product scoping and design of PrimeSafe. 

He said that "this new device improves both safety and productivity on site, as it increases the visibility of blasting components, reduces the risk of injury from vehicles running over the components, and is also low cost and reusable". 

Orica Mining Services operations manager - Australia/Pacific, Yogi Schleeman, said since the development of PrimeSafe it has become a part of the com­pany's internal safety practices on the bench and at sites where Orica operates. 

According to the com­pany the blasting accessory has "the flexibility to meet diverse site operating requirements on bench and requires no changes to existing mine blast designs". 

It has also been designed for use with various pegs. 

"[The device] is not only reusable, but can also limit the loss of blasting components in loose ground conditions." 

Water displaced from a blast hole has the potential to damage adjacent blasting devices, as well as change the chemical composition of the ANFO, putting operators at risk of creating orange nitrous dioxide plumes, which in turn may become nitric acid - a deadly outcome. 

Orica explained that PrimeSafe has a resin added to the paper pulp during the manufacturing process which makes the blasting accessory water resistant, allowing it to remain functional despite long periods of wet weather.  

It also addresses the main issue of visibility on site by being a distinctive yellow colour, which clearly identifies blasting components on the bench, thereby reducing the risk of vehicle contact and also the possibility of units being mislaid or buried accidentally. 

Importantly the device is secure and can be placed over the peg in close proximity to the blast hole and is designed to fit over a range of blast hole pegs, with its low centre of gravity and water resistance providing extra stability. 

It also provides storage for up to three decks, coming with clearly defined compartments that make it suitable for holding a range of different initiating systems, boosters and spooled products.  

PrimeSafe is also ergonomic in design, is lightweight, and easy to stack, store, and carry while also being biodegradable.  

Initial trials were carried out late last year, and since then it has seen active usage at Australian mine sites. 

More than 100 000 Prime­Safe devices were distributed for trial and about 60 000 have already been used on benches. 

The company has recently released smaller units for quarry and construction operations, and says that it is exploring a similar blasting accessory for underground mining operations. 

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