Mining is one of the most dangerous occupational activities in the world. In fact, Mining Digital says mining has the highest level of injuries and death compared to other industries and lists several reasons for this, including:
- Stress and fatigue
- Vibration from drilling equipment leads to fatigue, headaches and loss of balance
- Excessive noise leads to hearing loss
- Musculoskeletal injuries from exertion
- Respiratory problems from dust, particulates and toxic gases
- Heat stroke and exhaustion from hot, humid temperatures
- Suffocation from toxic gases
- Explosions and fires from flammable gases
- Cave-ins from structure collapse
5 Reasons Hydraulic Systems are Critical to Miner Safety and Performance
Mining is a dangerous occupation. The good news is that safety has become the number one priority in recent decades. Industry experts are always on the hunt to improve the health and wellness of miners and related employees. One way is by using reliable hydraulic-powered equipment that takes the place of manual labor and creates safer work zones. Here are some of the reasons why:
Reason #1: Fluid Power is Explosion-Proof
Hydraulic systems (fluid power) do not require electrons to activate valves. What does this mean? If there is no electron, there is no spark. No spark means no ignition source. This is especially important in confined spaces that may contain flammable gases capable of igniting or exploding.
Reason #2: High-Power Density and Precise Controllability
Hydraulic systems are widely used in heavy machinery commonly found in mining operations, such as excavators, loaders, drilling rigs and haul trucks. Hydraulic systems enable precise control over the movement of these machines, making them safer and more efficient to operate. Operators can manipulate heavy loads, dig through rugged terrain, and perform intricate tasks with greater control, reducing the risk of accidents.
Reason #3: Dust Suppression
Mining operations generate a significant amount of dust, posing considerable health risks to miners and affecting equipment performance. Hydraulic systems are often used to power water pumps that spray water or other suppressants to control dust levels, creating a safer and more comfortable working environment.
Reason #4: Less Human Exertion
Hydraulic systems not only power heavy equipment but can also power conveyor systems and tools that minimize the physical demands placed on miners. Hydraulic-powered conveyor belts can carry heavy materials and supplies from deep inside the mine to the surface. Hydraulic hammers are often used to break down rocks, hydraulic shear for cutting metal and hydraulic jacks can lift heavy loads.
Hydraulic systems enable precise controllability. This helps regulate the speed and alignment of transported items, greatly reducing the risk of accident and injury.
Reason #5: Roof and Wall Support
In underground mining, hydraulic systems are essential for roof support mechanisms. Hydraulic-powered roof supports, also known as “shield supports,” provide stability to the mine’s roof and walls, preventing collapses or cave-ins. These systems are designed to adjust to the changing conditions of the mine’s environment, ensuring the safety of underground miners.
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5 Preventative Maintenance Tips for Hydraulic Systems
Properly maintained hydraulic systems contribute to miner safety and operational performance. However, hydraulics used in functions like brakes, clutch or hauling people, machinery or material must be in optimal condition. Also, their components must meet strict criteria to be explosion-proof, intrinsically safe and high-quality.
How do we make sure hydraulic systems pass the test? First, you must use the right components from the start to build your hydraulic assemblies. Second, you must routinely inspect, service and maintain them.
Maintaining hydraulic systems in mining equipment is crucial to ensure safe and efficient operations in the field. Proper maintenance can extend the life of the equipment, prevent costly breakdowns, and enhance overall productivity. Here are some steps to effectively maintain hydraulic systems in mining equipment:
1. Inspect All Hose Assemblies
Perform routine visual inspections of hydraulic components to identify any signs of leaks, cracks or wear. Look for damaged hoses, fittings, seals and connections. Regular inspections can catch potential issues early on and prevent them from escalating into major problems.
Hydraulic hoses convey fluid through various equipment and applications. They should be able to withstand the operating pressures of the application and protect against abrasion while providing excellent durability and performance.
Hydraulic fittings allow hoses and tubes to be plumbed and connected to pumps, motors, valves and cylinders. Most fittings have a male end and a female end that join to form a connection. Fittings allow for easy installation and removal in the event of damage or wear — it’s easier to change out a fitting than an entire hose. Hydraulic fittings are often made from forged and/or machined steel to be strong and rigid.
Hydraulic fittings are often the weakest link in your hose assembly and must be chosen carefully to prevent leaks and maintain pressure.
Hydraulic adapters allow the connection of two different components that normally would not be compatible and can be made from aluminum, steel, stainless steel or brass. Sometimes, adapters can be used as a fitting, but their inherent function is much more complex. Always choose adapters with care and include them in your inspection process.
2. Follow Manufacturer Guidelines
Manufacturers recommend using matched sets of hoses and fittings for optimal performance and safety. Hydraulics and their components are not all created equal. Mixing and matching manufacturers can negatively impact your assembly and lead to leaks, pressure surges, decreased efficiency and increased wear. To avoid dangerous and expensive leaks, choose your hydraulic hose components with these considerations in mind:
- Fluid compatibility
- Potential risks and hazards
- Temperature and pressure ratings
- Installation design
- Hose size
- Corrosions requirements
3. Maintain Proper Lubrication Schedule
Inspect hydraulic fluid levels and look for signs of contamination, degradation and viscosity. Oil should remain clean and free of contaminants.
Change hydraulic fluid at regular intervals, especially if it shows signs of oxidation, has been overheated or is contaminated. Ensure all moving parts are regularly and adequately lubricated, including pivot points, seals and other parts where friction can occur. Inspect and replace seals and O-rings, as damaged components can cause fluid leaks, premature failure and safety issues. Be sure to keep fill points clear of dust and debris.
Replace any filters associated with the equipment according to the manufacturer’s schedule before they become clogged with contaminants. Check breather caps, fill screens and breather filters.
These steps can extend the life of mining equipment and improve overall performance.
4. Keep Detailed Records of Service and Repair
Document maintenance activities, fluid changes, repair and inspections to track the long-term health of your equipment and hydraulic systems and identify patterns of wear. Not only does it streamline efforts, but also creates consistent and reliable maintenance procedures and improves communication between departments and shifts. These actions will help you make more informed future decisions about your equipment and processes.
Checklists are ideal for simple, at-a-glance instructions on routine maintenance tasks.
5. Train Employees and Operators
Invest in routine retraining courses that identify and assess skills gaps among operators and employees. Not only does training serve as a reminder for proper maintenance and operation procedures, but it also enables companies to prioritize training needs, design a tailored curriculum and get ahead of issues before they become significant problems. You can leverage various formats for this training, such as online courses, webinars, hands-on training and simulations.
(NOTE: This is NOT an exhaustive preventative maintenance schedule. There are many other things to consider for optimum safety and performance, including maintaining valves, reservoirs, motors, pumps and pressure checks. Talk to your Superior Industrial Supply rep for additional assistance.)
Superior Industrial Supply knows how important it is to have access to the hydraulic hoses, adapters and fittings your operations demand. It’s why we specialize in hydraulic hose assembly and repairs, and industrial and MRO supply and fastener selection for the St. Louis region and beyond.
Give us a call at 314-638-6500 OPTION 4 and speak to a knowledgeable representative today!
We provide expert consultation for hydraulic hose assembly based on the specific challenges faced by the mining industry. Additionally, we assist in the documentation on fastener manufacturing, standards and quality expectations.
We’ll manage your heavy equipment repair supplies, including identifying, labeling, establishing ranges, and supplying you with a recommended procurement list. We’ll come onsite to keep your inventory levels in check and scan for replenishment as needed. Superior Industrial Supply will also help you plan for future inventory needs. Don’t forget to visit our website or read our blog for more information!