Safety first for Otraco - AMM article

Otraco was featured in the May 2015 edition of Australia's Mining Monthly for their Tyres and Tyre Management feature.

Safety first for Otraco

By Andrew Snelling

AT a simulated mine site in Maddington, Western Australia, Otraco has been striving to raise the bar for tyre safety.

Armed with the latest tyre-fitting technologies, as well as a unique mine site-like environment, the team at Otraco’s tyre training centre and centre of excellence in Perth have committed themselves to raising the bar for safety and skills in tyre bays across the country.

First established in late 2011, the training centre opened its doors to its first crop of tyre technician wannabes in a bid to mitigate the inherent risks that come with working with the large machinery and potentially hazardous environments found at mine site tyre facilities.

Fast-forward to the present and the centre has turned out more than 200 graduates, each trained well beyond what some in the industry consider to be an adequate level, and working for Otraco with a near-perfect incident record.

“In the industry it is possible to get a Cert II after a one week training course,” Otraco managing director Alistair Swanson told AMM. 

“So we would hold out that there is a very large gap between best practice in training to carry out this task and the potential to carry out the job. It is possible to work with a proper certification on a full sized earth mover truck whilst only having being trained and ever worked on tyres that are 27inch – now we’re talking about them walking out and doing a 63-inch tyre.

“It beggars belief that that is possible, that that is actual practice in the industry.”

Trainees undergo a rigorous assessment process before they can even begin their time at Otraco’s training centre. Tested for traits such as their safety focus, attitude, numeracy and literacy, the trainees must exhibit an aptitude for the job before they’re taken on.

A practical training course at the centre then follows over six weeks for those selected for the process.

The trainees, who are paid a salary for their efforts, begin with smaller C-class vehicles typically found on site and move progressively up the chain till they get to the full sized earthmover donated by BHP Billiton to the facility.

When they leave the facility with 12 units of competency, trainees hold a partial completion of the Certificate II and will complete the remainder of their training onsite over a period of about 12 months.

“Once on the mine site they spend another four months under direct supervision – not allowed to work alone – until we sign them off as competent to carry out the task,” Swanson said.

“They then would spend typically another seven to eight months before we’d award them the Cert II which allows them to work unsupervised.”

AMM visited the Otraco facility to observe the conditions in which tyre fitters are trained and was treated to a demonstration of a new B & D super jack, the first of its kind in Australia, and an innovation which is able to shave up to half an hour of downtime off a tyre-change operation and do so while increasing safety.

The new machinery reflects the continuing large investment made by Otraco towards its training centre, which is used to train staff from around the world, along with its sister facility in South Africa.

“Everything we do around delivering productivity and lower cost, we’ve got to remember that it’s got to be done safely,” Swanson said.

“The ability to ensure that you’ve got the maximum productivity and tyre life without compromising safety, is something that requires, in our view, a great deal of expertise and knowledge.

“To that effect, Otraco has invested more than anybody else in the world in training methodologies.”

According to Swanson, the mining industry at large has begun to rally around the idea of increasing safety in the tyre bay, especially given the high risk nature of the work which has tragically led to fatalities in the industry in recent years.

“People do unfortunately die in this industry and we’ve been able, within Otraco, to put a safety culture with procedures, processes, controls and training in place that allows competent people to work consistently safely. The heartening thing is the industry is getting behind this and there is recognition, and certainly – after a recent fatality – we’re seeing a flurry of activity.

“It’s too early to see where that will go but as an industry we’re reviewing the training and qualifications that are required.”

With this is mind, Otraco has begun offering a freshly developed Certificate III in automotive tyre fitting through its in-house registered training organisation.

The higher certificate is aimed at providing workers with a career path.

It takes into account the supervisory aspects of the job and aims to educate them to a higher standard in business and technology.

Swanson hopes that the company’s efforts at the training centre will continue to contribute to a safer work environment in tyre bays across the country.

“We believe that’s a good investment and we’re getting it paid back in terms of the safety results we’re getting out at site,” he said.

“We’ve seen a consistent month on month improvement since the training centre came into being.

“You can’t eliminate the risks but you can mitigate the risks.

“What we want is for people to turn up at work and go home safely in the evening, like any other organisation.”

A PDF of the article can be found here.