Olympic Dam

Making a life-saving difference

Protecting the lives of hundreds of your workmates each day is a huge responsibility.

But it’s a responsibility Nilesh is proudly committed to.

He’s worked at BHP's Olympic Dam site in South Australia for seven years.

In 2014 he was the Distribution Operator when, as part of a regular daily briefing, he and his workmates watched a video of an overseas fatal forklift accident.

“It got us thinking. Could that happen here and what could we do to prevent it?”

As a result Nilesh was asked to find a cost-effective and smarter way to manage forklift movements and protect his 11 colleagues.

It makes me feel very proud to be helping set such a high safety standard.

At the Olympic Dam site, up to five forklifts operate both inside and outside the warehouse.

The warehouse site is a staggering forty two football fields in size. One kilometre by six hundred metres.

“Inside the warehouse, we have the traditional yellow line walk-area markings but most of the work goes on outside,” he said.

“With large pieces of equipment stored in the yard and being moved around, it’s a very dynamic workplace. There are more interactions between forklifts and people outside than in.”

Nilesh was determined to find a way to mitigate the safety risks for his workmates and threw himself into the task boots and all.

“This was one of several projects I was working on at the time,” he said.

He was so focused on finding a resolution he even did research at home.

Nilesh’s partner and their two children, eight and 11, understood the importance of the project and gave him their full support.

“They know from experience that when I get assigned a task, I become very committed to it and having the backing of my family was great.

“They know I don’t give up till it’s done,” he said.

After extensive internet research and reading along with phone calls to the United States and Britain Nilesh found what he thought was the perfect solution.

Ironically after scouring the globe Nilesh’s determination led him back to Australia and a proximity sensor system that ticked all the boxes.

“The system matched the budget, was highly effective and best of all, it was Australian made for Australian conditions.

“Given our tough working environment that was very important,” he said.

The system consists of two elements.

A tiny transmitter weighing 20 grams which can be attached to a hard hat or slipped into a workers pocket.

For each forklift there is a matched receiver that constantly looks for people carrying the transmitter.

“If the forklift sensor picks up a signal it activates a tone and a digital voice warning that someone is nearby,” he said.

It can work up to five metres from any forklift, giving the operator adequate warning someone is nearby.

Once the system was installed, word of the proximity system quickly spread via a video produced by the local communication team and posted on the BHP intranet.

Today, both Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) and Queensland Coal assets have adopted and installed the system on all their forklifts.

For Nilesh, it means a rewarding sense of achievement.

“It was a great feeling to get the phone call from WAIO saying they were going to adopt the system also,” he said.

“It makes me feel very proud to be helping set such a high safety standard.”