Mining Contract: Mine Safety Data Analytics Engine (MSDAE)
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) of the back and the upper extremities are an important problem in surface mining for which new, effective intervention methods are needed. Safe and effective adoption and use of exoskeletons (EXOs) to control WMSD risks in mining can be achieved by developing practical exoskeleton implementation strategies and guidelines. Further, development of an initial, practical knowledge base would enable the safe adoption and effective use of passive exoskeletons for selected manual tasks in surface mining.
Contract Status & Impact
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This contract research will address work-related WMSD risk reduction using a recent innovative intervention: occupational exoskeletons. Exoskeletons are wearable systems that can assist, support, or augment the wearer during various physical activities. Existing evidence supports the argument that use of an exoskeleton is a promising approach to control WMSD risk and improve work performance for several occupational tasks. This is particularly the case for passive exoskeletons (i.e., with no electrical power source), which are currently more mature technology than that of the emerging powered exoskeletons. At present, however, there is no evidence specific to the mining industry about the use of exoskeletons.
Under this contract, researchers aim to identify opportunities and barriers to exoskeleton adoption, complete task-specific evaluations of exoskeleton efficacy, and provide guidance regarding exoskeleton implementation strategies, with a long-term goal of advancing exoskeletons in mining to prevent WMSDs. The Mine Safety Data Analytics Engine (MSDAE) is a proposed software system that will be developed to collect, parse, measure, analyze, and present big data at mine sites as useful information to mine personnel.
The work undertaken here supports the primary goal of the MINER Act technology mandate to "enhance safety technology and technological applications and to expedite the commercial availability and implementation of such technology in mining environments." Specifically, the proposed work will provide evidence to: (1) demonstrate the potential for EXO technology to improve safety and health, or both, of mine workers; (2) reveal potential barriers to EXO application in a mining environment and guide the implementation of EXOs while considering such barriers; and (3) establish the efficacy of EXO technology based on in-mine testing.