Tag Archives: Gannon

Coal miners put cap on fatigue – technology to stop operators falling

first_imgAustralia’s coal industry has designed what the Queensland Resources Council describes as “a world-first technology to alert heavy-vehicle drivers when they are tired and potentially reduce the number of driving incidents. Development of the tool started in 2004 at CRCMining as part of a project funded by the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP) and additional support from Anglo Coal Australia.”CRCMining engineer Dr Daniel Bongers explains the project arose when CRCMining was approached by one of its industry members who had tested fatigue gadgets and technologies and found that none of them would work for the mining industry. “The majority of technologies used either eye or head behaviour or operator-response time to determine the level of fatigue. A limitation common to these technologies is the inability to cope with driver-to-driver variations,” he said. “This means that these technologies deduced fatigue levels based on an individual’s response or behaviour rather than the direct, physiological measurement of fatigue.’The SmartCap provides real-time measurements of fatigue and aims to dramatically reduce serious and minor safety incidents. “The system can also determine when the cap is not being worn on the head but is still connected by Bluetooth to the display,” Bongers said. “For example, it could be sitting on the seat beside the driver, or resting on the driver’s lap. Within 20 seconds, the system status changes to ‘cap off’.”Bongers says the look and feel of the SmartCap is expected to win over operators and has already attracted interest from operations in Chile, Indonesia, Northern Africa, the USA, and around Australia. “We ran field trials at two central Queensland mines last year (Anglo Coal’s Callide and Capcoal mines) with successful results,” he said. “This has led to the final stage of commercial development, which we expect to finish by early next year. The outcomes of the project will promote a growing culture of fatigue awareness and its widespread adoption will help operations significantly reduce fatigue-related injuries and fatalities.“At present, we’ve only costed the solution for haul trucks, which we expect to be A$10,000 per truck including the charging unit, remote display, processing cards, central monitoring server, software, and a supply of caps (low cost consumable).”The state-of-the-art SmartCap looks like a normal baseball cap but contains a number of sophisticated sensors concealed in the lining to measure brainwave information through hair. The wearer’s level of alertness is determined every half-second. Confirmed alertness/fatigue information is communicated wirelessly to a fixed or mobile Bluetooth device such as a mobile phone, PDA, or on a slimline or industrial SmartCap touch screen display.When a fatigue danger limit is reached, a warning message is sent from the operator’s cap to the display, notifying the operator and/or supervisors of the threat and the need to stop work.“We also expect to design a hard hat version of the SmartCap early in the new year to provide a fatigue management solution for underground as well as other applications, Bongers noted.”As a supporter of the initiative, Anglo Coal Australia will be one of the first companies to pilot the technology at its Australian coal mines. An initial 50 systems will be introduced at Dawson mine by the end of this month. Each haul truck at Dawson will be fitted with the SmartCap monitoring system, and each operator will receive their own cap.The SmartCaps will be rolled out at the company’s other mine sites in 2010.On her recent visit to Australia and central Queensland, Anglo American Chief Executive Cynthia Carroll said the technology was an exciting development for the mining industry. “For many years, the mining industry has been searching for mechanisms to assist in the detection of operator fatigue to prevent fatalities and injuries. The safety of our employees and the communities in which we operate is crucial for Anglo globally, and we are committed to our ultimate goal of zero harm.”Fatigue-monitoring systems are common at Anglo Coal Australia’s sites. An example is the Occupational Safety Performance Assessment Technology (OSPAT) system used at Dawson mine. Every employee, contractor, or consultant coming onto Dawson mine site must first pass this computer system, which measures an individual’s reaction time to determine whether they are fatigued, or under the influence of illicit substances. The individual uses a roller ball to follow a moving target on a computer screen in front of them and their speeds are tracked and compared against their recorded averages. This system tracks fatigue levels when arriving at site.The SmartCap, however, takes fatigue identification one step further by recognising that people can become fatigued while at work. It does this by monitoring the levels of fatigue that truck operators may begin to experience as their shift progresses. “Fatigue, in particular, is one of the critical elements of our sites’ Target Zero Action Plans (TZAPs), which address specific high potential incidents at each site and assigns new procedures to eliminate them,” Carroll said. “Through the TZAPs, our priority has been to improve the safety of our heavy vehicle operators so that they don’t experience dangerous ‘micro-sleeps’ on the job. Fatigue management has historically involved soft controls such as workforce awareness sessions on circadian rhythms, healthy lifestyles, and dietary intake. The SmartCap is an important advancement in fatigue management because it provides reliable, real-time monitoring technology.”last_img read more