In our modern state of technological advancement there are many new ways to improve mine safety and protect workers around the globe. Yet, the question remains: are these technological changes realistic to implement?
The industry is quickly understanding the benefits of the digitised mine. Connecting all forms of operations to a well developed and implemented IT infrastructure provides the mine with systems that enhance safety standards and protocols.
So where are the opportunities to enhance safety standards without massive expenditures? Let’s begin with the very tool every underground miner cannot work without; the cap lamp.
Personal communication device
New cap lamp technology provides seamless integration to operations by combining life-saving technology with this essential piece of mining equipment. This fusion helps mining companies implement redefined safety precautions which can be easily trained to underground workers.
It is well known fact that everyone can be forgetful. Miners may enter the mine leaving behind tools or other equipment, but the one piece of equipment that they cannot leave without is their cap lamp. It is for this reason that the camp lamp is used as the main communication device between underground workers and their operators above ground.
This piece of technology can provide visibility on miner’s location which sheds light on the otherwise very dark space that is an underground mine. Integrating detection technology into cap lamps ultimately improves the safety of workers while also benefitting daily mining operations.
Effective communication underground may be the most important aspect of daily mine safety. Many times the conditions underground are loud, hot and dark, but most importantly ever-shifting. The ‘evolving’ nature of the underground mine makes it very costly to implement mine-wide seamless communication systems, therefore hindering what should be a very basic safety need.
In the case of an evacuation, technology-enabled miner cap lamps have been designed to individually start to blink, signalling the need to seek a refuge room or exit the mine. In order for the lamps to stop blinking and return to normal, the miner must turn the lamp off and back on again. This signals to emergency crews above ground that each of the individual miners received the message and is acting accordingly.
Mine-wide evacuation notification has been a recurring challenge for underground mines for many years, and this simple solution can save time and ensures that miners can get to safe zones faster.
Another major safety issue in underground mining is the threat of vehicular accidents against pedestrian miners and between each other. In recent years, it was reported that a large proportion of mine accidents are caused by a lack of visibility.
Technology-enabled cap lamps which are equipped with proximity warning features create a peer-to-peer network of vehicles and miners using, for example, sub-Ghz RF technology. With this system, there are two buttons located on the side of the cap; when pressed, the systems sends an emergency stop signal to all vehicles in the area.
For a miner on foot, having the power to signal distress to fellow miners operating vehicles is a huge advantage. Practically, this can be used in cases of emergency when a pedestrian is caught in the path of a moving vehicle and has no way of signalling for help.
Man down signal and alarm
A ‘man down’ signal is a feature than can be added to the cap lamp to alert other miners in the area of an accident. It will also notify personnel above ground of the situation.
In the case of a miner collapsing from dehydration, heart attack or injury, the cap lamp will begin to blink after 60 seconds of immobility and alert crew members in the vicinity. If the cap remains still for an additional 30 seconds (90 seconds total), it will send the ‘man down’ signal to rescue workers above ground while at the same time notifying team members and vehicles in the area.
These features were designed to prevent further accidents from harming vulnerable unconscious miners, while also alerting the rescue team so the worker can get the help he or she needs as soon as possible.
Traditionally, grabbing a brass ring is the standard system to account for all underground miners. Obviously this system has inconsistencies and flaws but it is a crucial practice, helping rescue workers determine how many people are left underground.
Through the use of new integrated cap lamps, however, emergency teams are able to track individual miners underground. Being able to track individuals prevents confusion and uncertainty during an emergency or evacuation.
The tracking feature also delivers live updates signalling when miners have reached a safe place. Its functionality extends to groups or individuals who become trapped due to sliding rock or other obstructions and will inform emergency teams where they are located. This enables rescue workers to be more efficient and to take decisive action when lives depend on it.
Implementing safety protocols and procedures can require unnecessary time and effort if the technology is difficult to understand. It is for this reason that Newtrax integrated the safety technology into the basic mining cap lamp in a simple and user-friendly fashion.
Miners are now able to feel more secure and protected, while companies are able to take better care of their employees. The benefits of this technology extend far beyond increased productivity; it extends to redefined safety standards for the workforce.