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Mining Project: Intelligent Safety Technology for Mining Machinery

NOTE: This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.
Principal Investigator
  • Joseph Ducarme, NIOSH OMSHR, 412-386-6728
Start Date10/1/2010
End Date9/30/2015

To investigate the implementation and integration of existing and emerging technologies in surface and underground mines to provide automatic, intelligent protections against traumatic injuries.

Topic Area

Research Summary

This project had three research aims, as follows:

  1. Develop an intelligent proximity detection system for miners working near continuous mining machines that provides enhanced safety over current commercially available systems.
  2. Develop an intelligent lockout/tagout system to reduce injuries to miners performing machine maintenance and repair.
  3. Assess continuous miner operators’ changes in risk perception due to the introduction of proximity detection systems and how their risk perception influences health risk decisions on the job.

Accidents related to machinery and powered haulage constitute the leading causes of fatalities and the third-most common causes of non-fatal, lost-time injuries in the mining industry. The most common causes for these accidents are workers being caught in moving parts of the machinery or being caught between a moving machine and a stationary object.

This project developed new safety technologies to protect workers near continuous mining machines (CMMs) in underground coal mines and near stationary equipment such as belt conveyors at surface stone, sand, and gravel operations. Two technologies were developed: intelligent proximity detection (iPD) and intelligent lockout/tagout (iLOTO). The iPD system tracks the identity and position of multiple workers. It intelligently and automatically disables selected machine functions, depending on their position relative to the CMM, thereby keeping workers safe. Researchers developed and evaluated several electronic lockout/tagout components, then designed and field evaluated an iLOTO system that integrates several of these components.

This research also identified changes in CMM operators’ risk perception and risk behaviors as a result of adding a proximity detection system (PDS) into their environment. Interviews with CMM operators were thematically analyzed for constructs including patterns in risk perception and behavior before and after PDS integration and the process of adapting to the PDS. The results show an in-depth view of mine workers’ perspectives and how their job tasks and environment are affected when learning how to use new technology. These research findings are relevant to companies and mine operators when introducing new technology into the mine environment.

This research aimed to reduce traumatic injuries and fatalities in the mining workplace. NIOSH researchers used laboratory trials, including simulated mining tasks, and field evaluations to verify the accuracy, reliability, and efficacy of these developed technologies. Adoption of these new technologies is expected to significantly improve the safety of workers near mining equipment at surface and underground mines.