Conveyor belts have long been a part of the mining industry, and almost all mining locations rely heavily on conveyor belt technology to transport large volumes of material from one place to another. Now larger, faster and more efficient than ever, conveyor belt productivity and availability are critical to any mining operation.
Downtime, repair and materials loss from a conveyor belt result in reduced efficiency, increased maintenance costs, safety hazards and diminished product quality. Therefore, it is fundamental for any mining business to operate a well-maintained and serviced conveyor belt operation.
Idlers are a major component in the conveyor belt system as they are relied upon to facilitate the belts’ smooth movement. If an idler fails, it can cause excessive wear to the belt, considerably shortening its life and increasing replacement costs.
Changing rollers is traditionally a time-consuming, physically difficult and potentially dangerous task, often performed at heights over land and sea. Idler change-out often requires scaffolding and fall arrest equipment to ensure worker safety. The level of hazard control required dramatically increases the time and expense spent on essential maintenance, especially when the costs of scaffolding and waiting times for the scaffold crew are included.
To remove an idler, the idler frame must be removed from the belt and are typically heavy, especially with the added weight of the conveyor belt, which increases manual handling risks. Combining this manual handling risk with confined working spaces increases the likelihood of employees sustaining back injuries.
ESS has developed a retractable idler frame that eliminates the need for most scaffolding, elevated work platforms or physically lifting the belt when changing conveyor rollers, resulting in a drastic reduction in maintenance time and manual handling risk.
The ESS Quick Change Retractable (QCTM) Idler Frames are designed to allow the safe withdrawal of individual idlers from either side of the conveyor by sliding the frame and idler out from the conveyor perpendicular to the direction of the belt along a custom-built track. This disengages the idler from the belt without needing separate hardware to lift the belt while replacing the idler.
Tom Stahura, Accounts Development Manager, ESS, said: “The QCTM Idler has been designed for, in many applications, simple one-man maintenance of the rolling stock of the conveyor belt. It allows for easy access to replace and remove parts.”
There is a reduced the need for numerous employees and equipment to carry out maintenance on a conveyor belt, especially belts that operate at heights wherever the QCTM Idlers are used.
Stahura continued: “We recognised that as we improved our product lines focussing on belt support, we needed to develop something that would work in conjunction with the roller to get maximum stability. We can no longer tip the roller over or lift the belt.” This resulted in the QCTM Idler series, which “was ideal for maintenance at load points and along the conveyor belt as it slides in and out of position without the need to raise the belt, remove skirting, supports and panels or move adjacent idlers to allow servicing”.
Installing ESS Quick Change Retractable Idler frames reduces downtime during scheduled and unscheduled maintenance and repair activities, increasing productivity and minimising revenue loss.
The enhanced safety features can also lower the risk of occupational hazards, eliminating pinch points and facilitating safe material handling.