From improved ergonomics to personnel safety: The evolution of underground concrete transportation

19 December 2019 (Last Updated January 7th, 2020 13:08)

Underground concrete transportation is an essential work phase in all mines and tunnels where wet concrete spraying method is used for ground support. But the process is not without its challenges.

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From improved ergonomics to personnel safety: The evolution of underground concrete transportation
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Underground concrete transportation is an essential work phase in all mines and tunnels where wet concrete spraying method is used for ground support. But the process is not without its challenges.

Often, operators will turn to standard on-road transport to get the concrete where it needs to be, but these vehicles are often not agile or robust enough for the unique conditions of underground work.

Vehicles that are specially designed for underground concrete transportation offer the safest and most efficient solution, providing added protection for personnel and a potential lower cost of operation for project owners. What’s more, these vehicles ensure operators are working within country guidelines, where government regulations prevent the use of on-road vehicles in underground mines and tunnels.

According to Herkko Juntunen director of logistics and utility product line at leading underground equipment provider Normet: “Operators face a range of issues when dealing with underground concrete transportation. Personnel will find a rough and unhealthy environment underground with poor road conditions, constant declines or inclines as well as lots of traffic within the tunnel.

“Typically, these operations will use very simple machinery and often bad ergonomics, creating an unsafe environment for employees.”

To combat these challenges, mine and tunnel projects are advised to utilise professional operators with a good level of relevant training within the field. Senior level staff should also ensure that ongoing training is provided to maintain the correct attitudes towards safety, driving and speeds.

Understanding operator challenges

Beyond getting the right staff, it is also essential that operators work with the right equipment.

“As the importance of operator safety and wellbeing is gradually increasing in underground mining, Normet is constantly developing safer and more ergonomic solutions, including improved front cabin and suspension systems to decrease operator fatigue,” explains Juntunen.

“Another rising trend in the industry is efficiency and sustainability. At Normet, this means working towards a reduction of energy consumption and cleaner underground environments and operations.

“We use the latest low emission diesel engine technology and our battery electric suite of SmartDrive products offers zero local emissions.  In fact, the fully electric battery driven SmartDrive vehicle suite brings a revolution in underground concrete transportation.”

“Typically, these operations will use very simple machinery and often bad ergonomics, creating an unsafe environment for employees.”

Normet began developing underground concrete transportation in the early 1980s, with the first products relatively modest when compared to today’s innovative solutions. To ensure the product range provides the best possible approach to underground concrete transportation, the Finnish company works closely with customers to better understand the needs and challenges of the industry.

The Normet concrete transportation product family includes two different types and several different sizes of machines to meet and exceed these demands, including the Utimec LF 600 Transmixer.

Robust and reliable

Developed in response to a sense of dissatisfaction to the offering in the market, the Utimec LF 600 Transmixer is a concrete transportation vehicle offering increased safety and productivity, while lowering operational costs and the total cost of ownership.

It comes with a practical concrete carrying capacity of 5.6 m³ and is designed for heavy concrete transportation in underground mines and tunnels where the tramming height is 2.6m or more, and a powerful diesel engine for a clean and efficient operation.

The machine, which comes with a standard drum lifter feature for flexible adjustment of concrete discharge height up to 2.0m as standard, makes it possible to discharge loads in circumstances where the receptive unit is not on the same angle or level as the concrete transporter.

For operator protection, the Utimec LF 600 Transmixer has been designed to improve driving safety and reduce fatigue with an optional front axle suspension system that reduces vibration from the wheels to the cabin while improving the handling of the vehicle. Meanwhile, the suspension system provides improved efficiency and speed to deliver increased safety and comfort for both the driver and the passenger.

“This robust and reliable machine offers good visibility and ergonomics,” says Juntunen. ”It is used all around the globe and customers are very satisfied of with its reliability, agility and excellent range of safety features.”

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