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Mining Project: Improving Situational Awareness through Visual Interventions

Principal Investigator
  • John Sammarco, NIOSH, 412-386-4507
Start Date11/7/2014
Objective

To reduce the risk of fatalities and serious injuries by using human visual performance data to develop specifications for visual cues and technologies that will yield improved situational awareness and decisionmaking during self-escape and while operating roof bolter machines.

Topic Areas

Research Summary

This project has four research aims, as follows:

  1. Escapeway markers and signage—Conduct human subjects testing to determine the specifications for visual cues to aid in self-escape based on detection and recognition of the visual cue, quality of the decision made based on interpreting the visual cue, and other key parameters associated with visual acuity.
  2. Lighted lifeline—Conduct a proof-of-concept study on the feasibility of using a light-diffusing optical fiber-based lifeline to provide a visual cue and additional information to self-escaping mine workers as a means for improving situational awareness and decisionmaking.
  3. Roof bolter visual feedback system—Conduct human subjects testing to determine specifications for a visual feedback system to aid in the safe operation of roof bolter machines based on time necessary to detect the visual cue, quality of the decision made based on interpreting the visual cue, recognition of surrounding hazards, and other key parameters associated with visual acuity.
  4. Roof bolter illumination system—Conduct human subjects testing to determine the required lighting intensity and distribution of an illumination system to improve a miner’s visual performance with respect to hazard detection and glare reduction for the internal working areas of a roof bolting machine.

The authors of the 2013 report, "Improving Self-Escape from Underground Coal Mines," identified the need to empower miners to self-escape during a mine emergency. The report put forth numerous recommendations, including the need to accelerate wayfinding technology efforts that enhance situational awareness and self-escape. Currently, self-escape technologies include signage for marking escapeways and lifelines, but these technologies have major limitations as currently applied in mining. Lifeline technology consists of a rope with directional cones that is not visible during smoke-filled mine conditions, so there is a need to improve lifeline visibility. Lastly, the need to enhance situational awareness extends to non-emergency situations involving the hazards associated with roof bolting machines.

Research under this project takes a human-centered approach to empower miners with visual information that would improve situational awareness and decisionmaking. A proof-of-concept study and human subjects testing will be used to better understand the visual needs of mine workers and determine the best illumination for various systems used in underground mines.

Results from this research will help the mining industry in two distinct ways—by enhancing self-escape and reducing traumatic injuries involving mining equipment.


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