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Articles South32-Apprentices
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Apprentice Innovation Enhances Workplace Safety.

Apprentice innovation enhances workplace safety

Two of our apprentices have been recognised for their innovative approach to reducing manual handling in the workplace.

Riley, a 3rd Year Certificate III Engineering Mechanical Apprentice and Blair, a 3rd Year Certificate III Electrotechnology apprentice, joined forces to develop a Pipe Roller System as a safety initiative for their host employer, South32. The aim was to reduce the risk of hand injuries, limit back strain, assist with the prevention of burns and heat related injuries and to enhance productivity. It incorporates the following features:

  • Electric Motor Drive: This provides consistent and controlled rotation of the pipe for precise and uniform welding. This eliminates the need for manual rotation, reducing the physical strain on welders and ensuring a more consistent weld quality.
  • Variable Speed Adjustment: Variable speed control allows welders to adapt to the specific requirements of the welding project, as different welding processes and materials may require different rotation speeds. 
  • Foot Pedal or Hand Start: Having both options gives welders flexibility in how they initiate and control the rotation of the pipe, accommodating their individual preferences and the nature of the task at hand.
  • Trolleys with Adjustable Rollers: Provides support and stability for the pipe to maintain alignment and prevent slippage. These rollers can be positioned to match the diameter of the pipe, ensuring it's securely held in place during welding.
  • Drive Mechanism with V-Belt: The use of a V-belt drive mechanism can help ensure smooth and reliable power transmission from the motor to the rollers. V-belts are known for their durability and efficiency in power transmission applications.
  • Consistent Weld Quality: The controlled and consistent rotation of the pipe contributes to a higher quality weld, as it minimises the likelihood of uneven or distorted weld seams.

The project was managed by the two apprentices from the initial concept through to the design, manufacturing and testing, with support from both the Electrical and Mechanical Engineers on site at South32.

Blair was in charge of wiring and mounting of the electrical box, securely mounting the electric motor and the control box onto the trolley frame, installing safety guards and placing appropriate safety stickers and labels on the equipment. Riley managed the metal cutting, welding\ and machining of core components, including wheels for mobility, the machined adjustable rollers to accommodate variations in pipe diameters, the adjustable Earth clamp (spider clamp), machined pulleys for the V-belt Drive and the adjustable leaning post.

In addition to the safety benefits, the use of the electric motor-driven pipe rollers significantly improves productivity by reducing the time and effort required for manual rotation. This allows welders to focus on the welding process itself, resulting in faster and more efficient work.

The project has been a big hit on site, with more requests from other workshops to have a Pipe Roller System built for their areas. As a result of their efforts, Riley and Blair were named our Apprentices of the Month in December and were also nominated for 2023 Safety Champion.

The apprentices worked on this project together over a period of time, demonstrating not only teamwork and innovation, but also the value of providing apprentices with opportunities for cross-skilling.