Mining Publication: Computer Simulations Help Determine Safe Vertical Boom Speeds for Roof Bolting in Underground Coal Mines
Incident investigation reports do not usually contain enough information to aid in studying boom arm vertical speed for roof bolting machines to determine the impact that appendage speed had on an operator's risk of experiencing a contact. Laboratory experiments with human subjects are also not feasible because of safety and ethical issues. Researchers successfully developed a three-dimensional computer model that uses virtual human simulation software as the primary means to gather contact data when the boom arm touches the operator's hand, arm, head, or leg. Data analysis of roof bolter simulations shows that the speed of the boom arm is the most important factor in determining the risk of an operator making contact. Regardless of other variables, contact incidents were always greater when the bolter arm was moving up, greater on the hand, and greater for the boom arm part of the machine. The reason why the subject experiences more contacts when the boom arm is moving up rather than down is that riskier behaviors occur during drilling and bolting, when the boom arm is ascending. Based on the data collected, boom speeds greater than 13 in/sec result in a substantial increase in risk to the roof bolter operator of making contact. Speeds less than or equal to 13 in/sec are associated with a more modest relative risk of making contact, which represents a decrease in potential hazard. The use of such information can be helpful in making recommendations to machine design and task procedures to reduce the likelihood that roof bolter operators will experience injury due to contact with a moving roof bolting machine's boom arm.