South African developer of process manufacturing software solutions ApplyIT has commissioned its computerised permit-to-work system, IntelliPERMIT, in Australia.
The system uses fingerprint identification technology to authorise permits.
“Permits are signed biometrically to prevent fraudulent authorisations. This allows individuals to be matched to their competence profile, ensuring that only properly trained personnel are able to issue or accept permits. “We use high-end fingerprint scanners that recognise individuals in dry, dusty and cold conditions, which are limiting factors in terms of this technology,” reports ApplyIT product development director Scott Bredin.
The IntelliPERMIT system was installed at Groote Eylandt Mining Company (Gemco), one of the world’s leading suppliers of manganese ore, to tighten and streamline safety procedures at the site, which is located on the isolated 2 000-m2 island Groote Eylandt, in the Northern Territory of Australia.
“The remoteness of the mining operations on an island far from any large developed area means that inevitably the site has to be equipped to cover a wide range of activities, including mining, port operations, logistics, maintenance of moving machinery, power generation and ore processing. Each of these activities has its own particular hazards and unique requirements for safe work,” explains Bredin.
Diversified miners BHP Billiton and Anglo American jointly own Gemco. The company processes about 3,8-million tons of high-grade manganese ore yearly from the island’s extensive reserves, producing 25% of the world’s supply.
The IntelliPERMIT system has been used at BHP Billiton’s operations, Metalloys and Hotazel, in South Africa, since 2004. Gemco had been experiencing specific problems regarding its permit system and contacted ApplyIT after visiting these operations.
“Gemco required improved compliance with the authority-to-work (ATW) procedures to increase safety and performance standards against relevant safety audit assessments. One of the requirements of the system roll-out was that there would be minimal disruption of ongoing work practices when formalising and standardising the ATW procedures in the system,” says Bredin.
Another aim was to streamline the permit issue and isolation processes for maximum safety and efficiency to enhance Gemco’s philosophy of safe production.
Two key features were added to Intelli-PERMIT during the Gemco implementation. The system was adjusted to enable incompatible conditions to be identified, alerting users to these situations. For example, the system can be set to prevent work being authorised in areas where falling objects may harm those working below.
Another feature included focuses on issues of complex dependence between different levels of authorisation. This prevents individuals from signing a permit when their competence profiles list expired skills and training needed to authorise a permit.
“This year, we have experienced increased interest and demand from the Australian mining industry and growing interest out of Africa. “In Africa, multinational companies in operation are being held to the same safety and operational standards implemented in First World countries. The IntelliPERMIT system is being used by these companies to improve their operations’ performance,” says Bredin.
The majority of ApplyIT’s current clients are in South Africa; however, the company is busy expanding into West Africa, particularly in the gold-mining industry, with interest also being shown by sugar mills on the eastern seaboard of Africa.
Bredin explains that about one-third of the company’s business is secured in the chemicals and process manufacturing industry, which includes process mills and chemical plants. Another one-third of ApplyIT’s business is in the electricity- generation industry, while the balance of the workload is made up of mines and metals processing.
Each of these industries has specific hazards and requirements for working in various environments. IntelliPERMIT is tailored to comply with the standards and regulations of each environment, with the company having commissioned 29 permit systems to date.
There are about 250 000 permits being issued by each system every year, with about two-million signatures used to approve these permits.