Two of the coal industry’s leaders in conveyor technology have completed a one-day conveyor safety symposium to introduce strategies and innovations to raise safety education and standardize maintenance practices to further reduce the risk of injury from working on and around conveyors.

While the number of lost-time injuries in coal mining and processing continues to fall, Martin Engineering and Stahura Conveyor Products (SCP) have joined forces on a mission of continuous improvement, developing new products and best practices to help protect miners and maintenance personnel from potential hazards.

Co-hosted by the two companies at the historic Greenbrier Resort Complex in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, the symposium was attended by more than 100 people, including representatives from the mining, coal and energy sectors.

The event featured key speakers from prominent coal industry media, along with engineering experts and top executives, who highlighted the significant progress made in reducing injuries, while introducing new ways to take conveyor safety to the next level. “We are trying to change the way the industry thinks about conveyors,” observed Martin Engineering chief technology director and CEMA director, Todd Swinderman. “The equipment has become much more robust and reliable, but basic designs haven’t changed that much.”

In order to take the next steps toward zero lost-time injuries, Swinderman said that engineers at Martin Engineering are re-examining standard conveyor features, questioning the existing approaches and searching for new designs that integrate safety with improved production. “Instead of emphasizing safety first, our motto should be production done safely,” he continued. “People are human, and they can always make mistakes, but innovative design can remove much of the inherent risk of working around conveyors. In the conveyor industry, design is the next frontier.”

Swinderman went on to describe the company’s new EVO® Modern Conveyor Architecture, a new approach to product design that encourages engineers to question why any given component is constructed the way it is. In many cases, he said the company is finding that small design changes can have a significant impact on safety and efficiency.

The Greenbrier seminar emphasized that safety, production and profit are not mutually exclusive. In fact, said Martin Engineering VP Jim Turner, just the opposite is true. “The most productive and profitable companies are the ones with the best safety records,” he said. Turner’s presentation touched on the design elements on which the company has been concentrating, and he also described the critical role that training plays in the quest for improved safety.

“Our Foundations training programs have been extremely well-received by the coal industry,” he continued, “helping management and maintenance personnel to identify and eliminate potential hazards.” Most recently, Martin Engineering introduced an online course to its library of training seminars, allowing participants to work their way through nine modules at their own pace.

The West Virginia symposium also provided an opportunity for Martin Engineering to introduce its Certified Conveyor Technician Program, designed to help service personnel improve their knowledge and understanding of bulk material handling systems and components.

Summing up the keys to future success in conveyor safety, Martin Engineering CEO Scott Hutter said, “In our own operations and in customer facilities, we stress employee empowerment at all levels. With good communication and involvement, we generate an energy that’s reflected in a consistently innovative product line and in continuously improving customer safety records,” he observed.

“The two-pronged approach emphasizing design and education helps our customers engage in safer and more productive conveyor operations,” Turner added. “That distinction is critical: safer AND more productive. Investments in conveyor safety generate payback in terms of improved operating results as well as personal and plant safety. Companies are finding that their return on investment is truly a win-win situation,” he concluded.