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Coming full circle

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World Cement,

Heather Harding, Bricking Solutions, reviews a range of products that cement manufacturers can use to bolster worker safety and efficiency during refractory installations.

With advancements in kiln technology, outdated refractory lining installation techniques – such as pogo sticks or jack and timber – have slowly been replaced in cement factories around the world. Bricking materials have not changed much, but the way in which contractors align, place, and secure them has become safer and more productive than ever.

Most people are familiar with bricking machines, but some original equipment manufacturers offer specialised tools for every stage of kiln maintenance. Equipment designed specifically for this purpose and that works together seamlessly can contribute to a new level of safety and efficiency.

Safety cages and personnel tunnels

Starting with the initial inspection, plants have come to rely on safety cages and personnel tunnels to protect workers from falling debris throughout the maintenance process. Not all regions allow workers to enter kilns before coating and clinker are removed, but in areas where this practice is used, facilities that employ cages and tunnels have been able to reduce injuries.

Like many pieces of refractory inspection equipment, cages and tunnels appear deceptively simple. However, careful material selection and design are key to optimising safety. Models manufactured with 6061-T6 aircraft aluminium offer the best strength-to-weight ratio. The material is strong enough to protect workers from debris up to 112 kg (250 lb) falling from a height of up to 2.44 m (96 in.) and can be as much as 50% lighter than comparable steel models.

Industry-leading manufacturers incorporate additional safety features for even more protection. Crumple zones, for example, absorb the energy of a collapse, preventing serious injury or death. Stainless-steel netting protects workers from falling debris. To increase peace of mind, manufacturers perform a battery of destructive tests to ensure these features perform as intended in emergency situations.

Kiln access ramps

Custom-engineered kiln access ramps also provide a significant safety benefit for refractory maintenance applications. While a simple plank bridge might have sufficed in the past, today’s refractory installation relies on heavy equipment, such as skid steers and tear-out machines, to expedite the process. To get people and tools safely across the cooler, metal access ramps have become standard in facilities worldwide.

Keeping in mind that every burn floor, cooler, and kiln is unique, partnering with a manufacturer that provides individualised products will help maximise safety benefits and efficiency for this vital installation component. Heavy-duty aluminium equipment provides durable, long-lasting results at half the weight of steel. An access ramp manufactured with this material can support as much as a 6804 kg (15 000 lb) live load. Custom-designed equipment can also incorporate features such as curbs and fall guards, when necessary, to protect workers as equipment moves across the ramp.

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