On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. vol.111 n.1 Johannesburg Jan. 2011
Mine safety net development and applications
N.M. Skarbøvig; A.W. Lamos; R.A. Lamos
Norsenet (Pty) Ltd
Safety nets have been used selectively in several South African mines over the years. Recently, however, an increased emphasis on mine safety has seen a resurgence of their utilization underground. This renewed interest has, however, also raised questions about the design and performance of these nets and their practical applications underground; these are the subjects of this paper.
Generally, mine safety nets are used to protect personnel from falling rock in temporarily supported development ends, tunnels, ASGs and stopes. These diverse applications each require specific net designs, resulting in a wide product range. As a rule, however, mine safety nets need to carry specified static or dynamic loads with the least possible deformation.
Because of the application-specific characteristics of mine safety nets, there is no South African national standard for them. Consequently, neither the SABS, nor the CSIR, performs standard tests on these components. In 2007, therefore, SIMRAC made available their Savuka facility for the testing of mine safety nets; the Savuka drop test became the accepted industry test standard for mine safety nets. From late 2007 to mid 2009, Norsenet, in collaboration with SRK Consulting, the designated operators of the site, conducted approximately 200 tests, which formed the core of Norsenet's database of safety net performance under various loading conditions.
The test specimens comprised a wide range of net materials and configurations; the materials included: high density polyethylene, polypropylene, polyester, nylon, as well as a blend of polyester and polypropylene used primarily for reinforcement ropes. Net configurations encompassed the following parameters: net type, i.e., knotted nets or sewn nets; net strand type, i.e., braids, twines, or webbing; strand size; mesh size; mesh orientation, i.e., parallel or oblique to the net edge; net edge reinforcement, i.e., knotted, tied, with or without reinforcement ropes; internal reinforcement ropes, i.e., diagonal ropes and/or orthogonal ropes; as well as net attachment options, including loops and chainlinks.
From the number of variables listed above, and the limited number of tests available, it can be appreciated that the findings of the test series required careful scrutiny. Nevertheless, principal performance factors clearly emerged: besides the obvious net mesh variables, such as net strand material, strand diameter and mesh size, it was the configuration of the reinforcement ropes and their attachment to the net panel which had the strongest influence on net performance. All the structural elements of a safety net need to work together to transfer the imposed load from the net panel, through the reinforcement ropes, to the net attachment points. In this load transference chain, the weakest link limits the strength of the structure.
From this development work, Norsenet has gained valuable expertise to custom-design and manufacture nets to clients' specifications. The examples presented in the paper will also show the experience acquired in the installation of nets underground. Future work will include the establishment of a state-of-the-art net testing facility at Norsenet's factory in Vredenburg.
Keywords: Mine safety net, safety net, protective device, mine safety, safety net design, safety net performance, safety net applications
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