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Mining Project: Assessing and Evaluating Human Systems Integration Needs in Mining

Principal Investigator
  • Jennica Bellanca, NIOSH, 412-386-6445
Start Date10/1/2012

To use a systems approach to characterize what information needs to be provided to mine workers, determine the timing and format of that information, and then use this information to develop alternative solutions and provide the mining industry with a better understanding of the design principles for the implementation of new and existing interfaces.

Topic Area

Research Summary

Mine workers interface with production and health and safety technologies on a daily basis, with many of these technologies introduced following the MINER Act of 2006. As these new technologies are being developed, it is important to understand the whole system. Designers should consider not only how the specific pieces of equipment affect mine workers, but also the safety solutions that workers already use and the added physical and cognitive challenges. A Human Systems Integration (HSI) approach can address these problems. HSI specifically focuses on the human capabilities and limitations as a part of the total system performance, making the mine worker central to technology development.

This project has two research aims, as follows:

  1. Identify underground mining jobs and tasks with a high risk of human systems integration breakdown and the factors that contribute to that elevated risk (equipment, tools, and environment interfaces).
  2. Assess and evaluate information exchange and notification methods aimed to improve the underground worker’s situational awareness.

Under this project, using the HSI approach, NIOSH researchers aim to characterize the informational needs of underground coal miners. Researchers will focus specifically on the continuous miner operator, through the identification and characterization of common and uncommon tasks, cognitive demands and decisions, the types and capabilities of equipment currently in use, information currently available to miners, and the preferred method and timing of information delivery.

Researchers will identify informational needs through observation, interviews, and questionnaires, and then conduct experiments to optimize the timing and presentation of the information given to miners to maximize their situational awareness and overall health and safety. Researchers will also develop guidance that manufacturers can use to modify existing or create new products that are more usable for mine workers.