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Lightning proofing for increased personnel safety and productivity at Roy Hill

Towards the end of 2016, Roy Hill Iron Ore (RHIO) identified that lightning storms during the lightning season posed a risk to personnel safety which in turn affected productivity with constant work stoppages during red alerts.

RHIO commenced discussions with West Australian Power Protection (WAPP) to work out a way to mitigate these risks. In mid-2017, RHIO gained support from management to proceed with the project.

Risks and Measures Identified

Camps – there is a safety issue with human nature and personnel transiting during red Dynasphere3alert grade conditions. Management have instructed that all corridors are to be made safe for personnel during red alert conditions. Bus shelters and car parks are also to be made safe for on load / offloading from vehicles.

Mine site – it must be safe to on load / offload from vehicles and near structures where maintenance is to be carried out during red alerts.  It must also be safe to repair electrical and controls equipment at the top of the main structures and deal with blockages.

Port area – it must also be safe to on load / offload from vehicles at the workshops and near structures where maintenance is to be carried out during red alerts.  It must also be safe to repair electrical and controls equipment at the top of the main structures and deal with blockages. In addition, special lightning arrest measures must be installed along the wharf areas.

Rail – the rail workshop to be made safe for all work to continue during red alerts, including dealing with the possibility if a lightning strike up rail and down rail from the workshop. All other measures around buildings and car-parks to be the same as for Mine, Port and Camps.

Upgraded lightning protection across the business will also reduce equipment damage due to unguided lightning strikes that hit anywhere and often travel along control and instrument wiring, causing equipment damage in the process.

Requirements:

With the lightning season officially starting on November 1st, time was of essence. ERICO’s proprietary System3000 Dynasphere Lightning Protection System (LPS) was Dynasphere Air Terminal, MKIVchosen to be installed in most areas for its technically advanced system. These were mounted on poles ranging from 8m-25m tall, some on buildings whilst others on 40m towers.

The main benefits include:

  1. Offer a larger radius of coverage, thus reducing installation costs (i.e. fewer poles are required to be erected);
  2. Offer a more controlled capture of the lightning strike to a preferred point by producing a lightning upleader; &
  3. the ERICORE insulated down conductor cable is purpose designed, which acts to eliminate side flashing of the lightning energy to the structure or nearby equipment ensuring its safe conduction to earth. A low impedance designed insulated down conductor ensures the lightning energy can be safely contained within the conductor over greater lengths.

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Where poles and catenary wires are employed as part of the lightning protection system design, all poles were fitted with ERICO’s Aluminium Air Terminals (Franklin Rods) which are very cost-effective.

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Outcome:

WAPP worked very closely with ERICO and Powerlines Plus (main contractors on the project) to design, procure and install the LPS in a very tight timeframe to ensure that the bulk of critical locations would be completed before the lightning season. From day one, all parties collaborated very closely at RHIO’s offices and WAPP/ERICO proactively offered training to key staff on installation. Products were flown in ahead of schedule to avoid any delays in delivery to site.

With the tight timeframe, made more challenging with the bulk quantity of specialised products required, some with long lead time, through close coordination and strong communication between all parties, the project was completed according to schedule.

This LPS for RHIO could be used as a model for other mine sites or any facility to ensure thehighest standards of personnel protection from lightning strikes at all times. Not only are risks of injury to personnel mitigated, but productivity of the facility can improve significantly with superior LPS in place.

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