Mitigating Human Error In Mines

Louise Smyth

As more mines open across the world and with the potential of digging deeper than ever before, industry leaders are more often turning their attention to advanced technologies and safer methods of mining. Whether a company owns and operates mines, manufactures mining equipment or provides strategies and expertise, underground safety is a main concern for the evolving sector.

Industry reports have shown that stricter regulation has led to safer mines but so have innovative digital tools. Human factors and errors can be greatly reduced with the application of advanced engineering systems that prevent the mistake or miscalculation before it happens.

Technology Advancements In Risk Mitigation

We often hear that the future of mining lies in innovation. It is imperative for companies not only to create innovative tools but also to constantly advance them, challenging the status quo. State-of-the-art technologies and even minor updates made to existing tools are used in mining operations for a variety of reasons: enhancing productivity, increasing profits, encouraging accountability, and improving safety measures.

An example of life-saving technology is Hard-Line’s Brow Alert system. This is an add-on system to LHDs. Like all of Hard-Line’s systems, this technology can be retrofitted to any make or model, regardless of the age of the vehicle.

What Is Brow-Alert?

Brow-Alert is designed to prevent operators from manually driving a vehicle past the brow line of a stope. Driving past the line could trigger the falling of rock, which likely would result in serious injuries or even death for the operator. Aside from personal injury and fatality, asset and infrastructure damages can also occur.

Brow Alert functions using two RFID tags that detect the moment a vehicle passes a certain checkpoint. The tags are mounted to the back of the drift. When the module on the vehicle passes by one of the RFID tags, the Brow Alert system is triggered. The system has two zones, the yellow zone and red zone. Entering the yellow zone alerts the operator that it is time to stop the vehicle, disembark and begin remote-control operation in a designated safe location. At this point the amber strobe light is activated. When reaching the red zone, the engine will shut down completely, engaging the brakes while operating in manual mode. Once the vehicle is in lockdown, only a supervisor with a supervisor tag can unlock the machine. With this technology, it is inconvenient for the operator not to yield to the warnings, a strong reminder that safety is priority. The system has proven to prevent injuries and, more importantly, to save lives.

Brow Alert, which is an add-on feature to existing vehicles, is seen as an incremental change to any mining operation, not disruptive; it can be the difference between life and death.. The system represents a risk-mitigation opportunity for underground mining companies providing that next level of protection for workers.

What Are The Benefits Of Brow-Alert?

Aside from helping to eliminate human error, the system acts as a deterrent for other human factors. An operator could be in medical distress, or even faint while driving towards the brow line. This is where the lockdown mode proves to be that much more important.

The advancement of techniques and technology continues to provide long-lasting benefits to the evolving mining sector. As mining companies shift their strategies by integrating remote control and automation, the advantages gained go beyond the bottom line. A healthy workplace gives employees security and the satisfaction of coming to work with a culture that promotes safety. In line with innovation solutions, the mining sector on all levels benefits when enhancements are made to safety protocols and procedures.

Claude Sharma is with Hard-Line