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Mining Project: Intelligent Safety Technologies for Mining Machinery

Project DetailValue
Principal Investigators
  • Joe Ducarme, OMSHR, 412-386-6728
Start Date10/1/2010

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

Program Area
Keywordsinjury prevention, mining, traumatic injuries

Research Summary

This project will investigate the implementation and integration of existing and emerging technologies in surface and underground mines with the goal of providing automatic, intelligent protections against traumatic injuries.

The project encompasses two tasks involving:
(1) NIOSH-developed intelligent proximity detection (iPD) technology
(2) NIOSH-developed intelligent lockout/tagout (iLOTO) technology.

According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) accident data, from 2002-2008 the coal industry averaged 1,206 accidents per year involving mobile face equipment. Of these, 252 per year occurred while operating continuous mining (CM) machines with an increase in incidents happening while tramming equipment. Because of this, the Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR) developed specific research goals in this area for injuries involving powered machinery. In the area of proximity detection systems, NIOSH has developed a prototype intelligent system that could be improved and expanded with the integration of sensor technologies to, among other features, monitor a miner's posture and position in relation to the machine and established danger zones. This technology is applicable to workers around continuous mining machines as well as other underground and surface equipment. The project aims to answer the following research questions:

  • Can an intelligent proximity detection system be designed that provides enhanced safety, over current commercially available systems, for miners working near continuous mining machines?
  • Can an educational campaign be developed for continuous mining machine operators to remove barriers to the successful installation, acceptance, and use of proximity detection systems?
  • Can an intelligent lockout/tagout system be developed to reduce injuries to miners performing machine maintenance and repair?

The first priority of this project will be to validate the NIOSH-developed iPD system through laboratory trials. The accuracy and reliability of the system will be enhanced and its capabilities will be expanded through the integration of additional sensor and visual warning system technologies. An educational campaign on proximity detection technology will be designed and implemented. 

The next objective of the project will be to evaluate and determine the feasibility of developing an electronic, wireless, lockout/tag out system to prevent accidents related to maintenance activities or unexpected machine startup. The purpose of this objective is to develop and test interventions to prevent caught-in, struck-by, and electrocution injuries and fatalities due to improperly locked-out and tagged-out equipment. iLOTO systems will be studied to determine their potential to reduce these accidents by making conventional LOTO procedures smarter, warning workers and operators of hazardous situations, and providing additional accountability to perform maintenance and repair with the proper safeguards in place. A wireless sensor network approach would ensure that everyone knows that the equipment is under LOTO procedures.  The failure to properly use LOTO procedures is one of the most common ways that workers are injured (CCPS, 2005) .


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