Metal Mining Automation and Advanced Technologies Workgroup Report

Keywords: Automation

The Metal Mining Automation and Advanced Technologies (MMAAT) Workgroup reports to the Mine Safety and Health Research Advisory Committee (MSHRAC) regarding specific questions that affect potential health and safety issues related to the implementation of automation and other advanced technologies in U.S. metal mining.

On November 12, 2019, the workgroup released a report of its recommendations for work by NIOSH in the area of Metal Mining and Advanced Technologies, in addition to other pertinent details and research concerns of the workgroup.

The full report can be accessed here.

The recommendations as included in the executive summary are:

  • Track the degree of automation in various sectors of the industry, best practices, and determine measurable impacts on health and safety.
  • Assess and define appropriate limits for human operators interfacing with machines, particularly in remote control – what are the maximum number of alarms/decisions the operator can reasonably make, how is alertness maintained, what are appropriate strategies to provide situational awareness, and distill data? What are strategies for addressing the change from normal operating conditions to emergency conditions in a control room?
  • Determine the applications of virtual and augmented reality for training workers and testing autonomous systems.
  • Identify and study the gaps in sensing and situational awareness, developing solutions that complement existing technology. This may include designs for providing situational awareness to operators, new sensing devices, such as wearable sensors for mine workers, continue to expand and build upon work in proximity detection, sensing of operator alertness and controls for maintaining alertness and engagement.
  • Research the use of unmanned vehicles for collection of environmental data that could lead to improved health outcomes, collection of environmental data to provide improved safety (prevention of explosive or toxic atmospheres, inspection of hazardous areas), and collection of data during emergencies and catastrophic events.
  • Identify measures of success for autonomous systems in terms of health and safety, and disseminate standards and tools for such measures. In other words, what is the equivalent to a lost time accident in an autonomous system? How is efficacy of such systems measured in terms of health and safety outcomes?
  • Conduct a complete review of other industries undergoing similar transformative change with regard to autonomous systems, and identify partner offices in NIOSH, as well as partner agencies around the world for transfer of knowledge and best use of resources.
  • Identify partner operations for holistic research that characterizes the best approach for mine site design or retrofit with regard to autonomy, and develop plans for long term projects.
  • Design risk management approaches that are less linear than current approaches for use with complex autonomous systems.
  • Study how the behavior of workers in mines changes as they interact with autonomous systems.

Page last reviewed: 3/23/2020 Page last updated: 3/23/2020