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An overburden supervisor’s love of yacht racing helped come up with a work gear upgrade that has won a major industry innovation award.

Synthetic lightweight couplings developed by Dysart resident Josh Leppard and colleagues at BHP Mitsubishi Alliance’s Saraji Mine earned the Innovation Award at this year’s Queensland Mining Industry Safety and Health Conference.

The couplings are a clever alternative to the ~110 kilogram combined weight of a pull ring and metal shackles, which are routinely used to pull mobile equipment across the mining industry.

Mr Leppard, who worked on the project for the past six months, is a competitive sailor on his days off and used his knowledge of the marine industry to develop a practical solution to engineer out a manual handling risk.

“Being a yacht racer for many years, we moved away from using metal shackles four or five years ago and now only use synthetic couplings that are made specifically for marine purposes,” he said.

Sailing know-how sparks lightweight shifting solutionh
Josh Leppard, with wife Natasha, displays the award.


“These couplings are lightweight but provide exceptional strength as you would expect to be needed on offshore race yachts.”

The Saraji team worked with the marine coupling manufacturer in New Zealand to “super-size” the technology to suit the mining industry and created ‘soft couplings’.

The soft couplings weigh about 8kg and are made of Dyneema, which is braided with Technora to provide high heat and chemical resistance as well as protecting against chafe.

“We hope that by creating the ‘soft’ couplings’ we’ll not only reduce the risks associated with heavy lifting and manual handling, but also remove the physical barriers that may prevent some men and women from completing the task,” Mr Leppard said.

“I’m really proud that we were able to deliver this for not only Saraji and BMA, but also for the industry. By presenting at the Queensland Mining Industry Safety and Health Conference and now overseas in a few months, I hope that I’ll be able to share our learnings with others and make our industry safer.”

The team worked with independent testers to verify and strength test the shackles so they could be used on site.

Saraji is getting soft recovery shackles and soft recovery couplings certified so they can be used in lifting operations, which will substitute the existing heavy weight lifting shackles.

The team is also working though and obtaining a “FRAS” rating so they can be used underground for Longwall moves.

Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety Conference Award Winners for 2019:

Innovation Awards

Winner – Synthetic Light Weight Couplings, BMA – Saraji Mine

Highly Commended – Real-time Bund Monitoring, Anglo American – Capcoal Open Cut

People’s Choice – Broadmeadow Proximity Detection System, BMA Broadmeadow Mine

Health Program Awards

Winner – Fit for Change, New Hope Group

Highly Commended – A Clinical, Radiological and Occupational Review of Coal Mine Dust Lung Disease in Queensland, Wesley Dust Disease Research Centre

PIC: BMA overburden supervisor Josh Leppard's daughter Alliara shows off the lightweight couplings

Sailing know-how sparks lightweight shifting solution