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Protection against unexploded ordnances and ammunition remnants in remediation

The remediation and restoration of old firing ranges which are contaminated with unexploded ordnances and ammunition remnants are important measures in protecting the environment and persons. The construction machinery used and its operating staff play an important role here. Vibrations and shocks can cause explosions. The test centre supports risk minimisation with its expertise in the protection sector.

21.03.2023 | Mehmet Özdemir and Dr. Lea Siegenthaler, specialist area Test Centre, competence sector Science and Technology

A blast with a 15.5 cm artillery shell is prepared.
A blast with a 15.5 cm artillery shell is prepared.

Thanks to our contribution, employees in particular are protected from life-threatening explosions. Together, we can thus make former firing ranges safely accessible to the population again.

How can the employees be adequately protected on the construction machinery? First of all, the threat must be assessed. The necessary risk assessments are compiled together with technical experts, in particular with specialists from the specialist area Explosive Materials and Ammunition Monitoring of armasuisse Science and Technology as well as specialists from the Command EOD. While one option of mitigating risks is by using robotised variants such as the Armeno construction machine, ordinary construction machines can also be made safer.

Armeno is a robotised construction machine based on a standard caterpillar hydraulic excavator with a working weight of around 25 tons. It is remote-controlled and thus does not expose anyone to unnecessary danger.

More about the Armeno

To this end, the test centre tests various materials and configurations with regard to their inhibitory effect. This can also be performed using the simplest of means. A suction pipe transported sand that was contaminated with ammunition remnants and unexploded ordnance into a separation plant and the splinters resulting from a transformation of the unexploded ordnance presented a considerable risk for the employees. Using simple wooden boards, the pipe was sufficiently secured to ensure that there was no longer any danger to persons involved. The purchase of a particularly costly special pipe could thus be avoided. The inhibitory effect of the bucket of a wheel loader is to be tested in an ongoing trial. As it is not possible to perform the tests in sufficiently large numbers on the construction machinery used and the test locations are restricted in the amount of explosives deployed, downscaled model tests are performed first. In concrete terms, this means that the same test is carried out on a smaller scale. To this end, the test centre performed blasting on thin metal plates in the same quality as the bucket to be used and appropriately adjusted quantities of explosives. The findings now serve to adequately prepare the blast tests with the specific bucket as well as to adjust the parameters of a simulation, in order to be able to better define protection before a test in the future.

The concrete findings from these trials will also benefit other projects in the future. As the test planning and implementation of large-scale testing in particular is very time-consuming, projects can be significantly accelerated by establishing expertise in advance.

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