Elevating Safety

Therese Dunphy

January 1, 2010

The right equipment helps an Illinois operator perform plant maintenance more quickly and more safely.

When it comes to plant safety, guidelines from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) set the floor, not the ceiling, for Prairie Materials. “MSHA is a stickler when it comes to making sure that you keep your operation in top-notch condition at all times,” says Jim Purdy, plant manager of Prairie Material’s aggregate yard #95 in Manteno, Ill. “They physically inspect our operations at least twice a year and are very thorough. But even though they set the standards, when it comes to safety at Prairie, we use their standards as a baseline and improve on them from there.”

Safety is a mantra at Prairie, and nowhere is it more important than at their Manteno mine where Purdy oversees the operation. Over the years, it has consistently received awards for safe operation including Safety Achievement Awards from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Mines and Materials, and numerous Rock Solid Safety Awards from the Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers. 

Headquartered in Chicago, Prairie Materials, a Votorantim Cement Co., is one of the largest concrete and aggregates companies in the Midwest with facilities in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. It operates 81 concrete locations and 17 aggregate mines, boasts more than 1,150 concrete mixer trucks, and employs nearly 1,800 people. Founded in 1948, it mines more than 6.5 million tons of aggregate each year.

The Manteno facility encompasses more than 250 acres and has been in operation since the 1970s. It features a working limestone quarry and three plants where the quarried limestone is crushed and screened to size for use in roadbeds, building and landscape construction, and cement production. Much of the finer ground limestone from the site is used by Prairie’s 39 ready-mix yards and 16 brick locations throughout Illinois.

Maintaining the three crushing and screening plants is a yearlong operation. Although most major maintenance work is done during the off-season when the quarrying operations are suspended, there are thousands of feet of overhead conveyors, as well as metal structures, drive motors, and other areas where ongoing maintenance is required. “Even though our newest plant went online in January 2008, we’re constantly doing preventive maintenance, splicing belts, or welding something on this or one of the other plants,” Purdy says, “and our boom lift makes it a whole lot easier for us to do it.”

The Prairie Manteno facility uses a JLG 600S telescopic boom lift rented from Illini HiReach of Lemont, Ill., that but also provides operator safety training to Prairie’s employees.

The boom lift features a 60-foot working height and almost 50 feet of horizontal outreach, so it not only reaches the overhead conveyors, but also provides access over ground-level obstacles to perform low-level maintenance that couldn’t be reached effectively from a ladder or other temporary structure. In addition, it has an 8-foot platform, 1,000-pound restricted platform capacity, and 360-degree continuous swing with 160-degree platform rotation so it can be positioned in almost any overhead location and can carry the men and materials necessary to perform any task. Because the platform is completely surrounded by guardrails with toeboards and has anchor points for fastening a safety harness, it meets the requirements set forth by all regulatory agencies, including MSHA.

The boom lift has proven so useful in performing a wide variety of tasks around the plant that Kort Alcorn, an aggregate division production manager responsible for six aggregate plants in Illinois, instructed all of the facilities he supervises to have a boom on site at all times.

“With the JLG on hand, whenever we have a problem involving an overhead area, we can slip a safety harness on one of our trained operators and go up and fix the problem,” Alcorn says. “We don’t have to wait for someone to bring in equipment or try to reach the area some other way. It’s faster, more productive, and a whole lot safer.”

 Purdy notes that the unit it rents has four-wheel drive and features 45-percent gradeability. “Coupled with a 65-horsepower motor, it’s powerful enough to go through mud, drive up inclines, and travel wherever we need it,” he adds. “It’s the ideal machine for use in an operation like ours, and I can’t imagine what we would do without it.”

This article was provided courtesy of JLG.

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