Mining and metals industries are characterised by extremely harsh and hazardous production environments. Samancor Manganese, a producer of manganese ores and alloys, is no stranger to these problems, operating three electric arc furnaces that are among the world's largest at its Mettaloys plant in Meyerton.
With safety and security management a major issue, Samancor has implemented a state-of-the-art permit-to-work system critical to safeguarding workers and the environment, thus ensuring responsible, sustainable operations. Fingerprint readers that form a key part of the system were supplied by the Ideco Group, primary supplier in southern Africa of Sagem biometrics solutions. "Permits to work, risk assessments and access control form a cornerstone of our safety drive," says Samancor vice president, Philip Hechter.
Yet, despite their critical nature, many competing systems suffer from lack of visibility and managements find it difficult to ensure procedures are followed consistently. Auditing is tedious, and frequently deviations are discovered only after an incident has occurred.
To address these shortcomings, Samancor Manganese has invested in IntelliPermit, a software solution that provides operations management with tools to manage processes effectively and ensure that safe working procedures are followed when permits are issued for maintenance staff and contractors to work on site. Managing authorisation/signing of permits is critical to ensuring that only competent staff are allowed to sign, and to maintain a reliable audit trail. It was recognised, however, that the integrity of a system can be compromised if reliant on inputs such as PINs or passwords.
"We had to bridge the gap between laid-down procedures and what was happening in practice," says Steynberg van Rensburg, production superintendent at the company's West Plant. "We required a more robust permit-to-work system that enforces the rules of safe work, provides visibility of work in process across the plant, and controls the authorisation of permits." IntelliPermit provides comprehensive tools for managing preparation, authorisation and issuing of permits. In-built intelligence ensures that hazards are identified correctly, and that adequate safety measures are taken.
The Ideco Group supplied ApplyIT, approved Ideco/Sagem integrators, with MorphoSmart fingerprint scanners to integrate with the IntelliPermit application. Use of this technology has created a completely secure method of signing permits electronically, and has streamlined the authorisation process.
There are currently 22 identification stations deployed at strategic points throughout the site, covering all three production units and associated utilities areas. Each station is connected to the central biometrics database, the Sagem Morpho identification or matching server. The system handles simultaneous identification requests from around the site, matching them from more than 6000 fingerprint templates in less than two seconds. The system thus enables rapid positive identification of workers and contractors throughout the site, greatly increasing both security and safety.
Through the use of biometrics, Samancor has not only streamlined the authorisation of permits, but accurately records attendance of workers and contractors, overcomes problems inherent with issuing people with passwords (and users forgetting them), has closed other security loopholes, and provided a platform for integrating with the existing physical access control system.
Samancor Mettaloys is a large site with a large staff and numerous contractors. The large employee complement combined with the harsh and hazardous nature of the operations resulted in a high incidence of poor quality and badly worn fingerprints. To be effective therefore, the system employed had to guarantee the lowest possible failure-to enrol-rate. The system had to perform well in dusty and dirty conditions.
The IntelliPermit/Sagem solution was piloted at West plant, the first of the three production units at the Meyerton site. Implementation took two months and was completed on time and within budget. The system operated to standard from the moment of going live; user acceptance was rapid, and on-site support was required for only two days.
For more information contact Gary Jones, Ideco Group, 011 840 7800, www.ideco.co.za
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