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Partnership Studies Technology for Mining Safety

By Christine Torres

Study explores tech in mining safety

The virtual reality revolution is under way, and more companies are embracing the technology as a way to make their business more progressive and safe. Collaborating with both industry and research-based institutions, the Australian government is conducting a 5-year study to align health, safety, and business in the mining industry worldwide. The goal is to deliver technology and service improvements for better safety and health outcomes for the mining industry into the future.

Partnerships in Safety

Using cutting-edge virtual reality technology, mining work simulators are seen by the Safety in Mines Testing and Research Station (Simtars) as a strong, strategic partnership to leverage effective and engaging strengths in training, health and safety, emergency preparedness, and emergency response. Simtars is a center for mining safety and health research that provides scientific, engineering and training services in Australia as well as internationally.

“We’ve consulted with industry and other stakeholders to develop a strategy that will see more research focused around respirable dust, human-machine interactions (arc flash), emergency preparedness, spontaneous combustion and explosion survivability,” said Gareth Kennedy, director of Simtars’ Mine Safety Technology Research Center. “The new research strategy provides a consolidated and focused approach that better aligns to the current and future needs of industry.”

Globally, the mining industry employs about 1 percent of the workforce. However, mining accounts for 8 percent of fatal workplace accidents, according to the International Labor Organization. Mining operations have numerous hazards. Effective workplace safety in mining depends on employers and employees understanding equipment hazards and having the right visual communication tools to help ensure safety, such as prismatic markings, for equipment and escape paths in low-light areas, and machine safety signs and labels.

Signs reflect safety information in mining

Visual Cues in Mining

Immersive Technologies is a supplier of surface and underground mining equipment simulators and is working with Simtars to explore ways to optimize and sustain mining best practices. The simulators’ wide field of view allows truck and/or machine trainees to safely transition through intersections and become familiar with a work site. Shovel and excavator operators have a clear view to help locate trucks, and it adds more visibility to digging, dozing or grading work, Immersive Technologies said. The expanded visibility also allows more attention to be paid on visual cues and other bold mining instructions.

“Our simulators provide a cost-effective way to train, assess and evaluate personnel in a safe and efficient manner, minimizing impact to production by reducing the amount of in-field training time,” said Ravitha Sukumaran, a product manager at Immersive Technologies.

For the next five years, Simtars will undertake research and testing of proximity detection systems, spontaneous combustion characteristics, chemical exposure risks, mine fire handling, tire inflation safety and a mine escape vehicle. Kennedy said that Simtars also is looking into the development of min machine radar navigation with user interface. “The system we are designing will be used in hazardous environments and can be retrofitted to existing mine vehicles,” he said.

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