By Scott Hunter Haddow
The Denis brothers of Matheson are not out to save the world, but they are hoping their new invention will save lives in the drilling industry.
Their company, Techni Drill Inc., has introduced an innovative rotary or percussive drill guard that could change industry safety standards.
The guard encloses the danger area of drills to keep operators safe from minor and serious injuries. The guard protects operators from getting their uniforms wrapped up on the rod and also protects them from scraped knuckles, broken fingers, broken hands and even death while the drill rod is turning.
“I have never been seriously injured myself,” says Norm Denis, co-owner. “I have rapped my knuckles and bruised my hand, but I saw the potential for severe injuries.”
The guard is semi-automated and hooked up to the rotation control lever.
“As soon as the rotation is activated the doors close automatically in front of the unit so you can’t get close to the rods,” says Denis.
Denis and his brother, Marc, created the guard because of the number of minor injuries drill operators sustained over the years.
“Being in the industry and having done drilling myself and seeing injuries happen over and over again is what brought this on,” Denis says. “I said to myself there has to be something that can be done.”
Norm and Marc spent over a year modifying and developing the design. The prototype is constructed of steel and chain-linked fencing. Over the course of the year the design was altered to improve the product.
“A lot of the tests were done in our shop. We would see flaws in it and scrap it and start over again,” says Denis.
It was an ongoing project for the brothers. Eventually they got to the point where they felt they were close to a solid design and took it to one of the mines their company had a contract with and put it to the real test. This procedure allowed them to see their guard operate and function in a real working situation. There would be more alterations to the design as the brothers continued to perfect the guard.
“We designed it in a way that it is functional for the operator, as well as for the drilling itself. We believe it is quite sturdy and will do the job for sure.” says Denis.
Over the year Denis estimates he and his brother have spent in excess of four months of eight-hour days and invested about $20,000 on the project to complete it.
The guard is not a complicated piece of equipment to use, he adds.
“A competent, qualified operator would pick up and run with this over the period of one shift,” says Denis.
The brothers kept the design simple and easy to work with and tagged it as “dummy proof,” says Denis.
A mining inspector examined the design and provided suggestions of ideas to improve the product.
“The inspector mentioned a few ideas and we redesigned our unit to do exactly what they suggested,” says Denis.
Denis is working on another guard, which is slated for completion by December. The unit was installation on a drill at the Crieghton Mine in November.
“Primary installation should be done by a mechanic and every installation thereafter can be done by the operator because there is really nothing to it,” says Denis.
The brothers do not have a marketing strategy yet because they just finished building it.
“We called a lot of the mines and talked to health and safety representatives and sent out as much information as we could to try and market it that way. This product is really specific to a particular industry,” says Denis.
Denis would like to see the guard on more drills and help the industry.
“I’m not looking to get rich off this. I’m looking to help people out. I have been there and done that. I can’t stand to see people getting hurt. It effects everybody in the mining industry,” says Denis.
Denis also personally believes the guard could become an industry safety standard.
Denis never imagined in his wildest dreams he would be an inventor and praises the people who have helped with the project.
“My brother and Nelson Marriopte, a millwright in the shop, we put our heads together and came up with (a prototype),” says Denis.
Techni Drill Inc. has been in business for seven years. The company specializes in long hole drilling and blasting.