Mining Project: Utilizing a Human-Centered Design Approach for Mine Automation

Principal Investigators
Start Date 10/1/2021

This pilot project aims to identify, understand, and document human factors considerations and expectations when designing and implementing automation along its continuum to improve mine worker health and safety.

Research Summary

The mining industry, like others, is capitalizing on the benefits of automation by implementing it into the mining work system. Multiple recent reports highlight the need to take a systems approach and human-centered approach to automation in mining. Previous research in complex systems similar to mining, such as aviation, has shown that improperly designed systems pose a burden on operators when human capabilities are not considered during the design and implementation of automation. In addition, previous literature has identified some human-centered challenges, such as poor acceptance of technology, loss of situation awareness, boredom associated with vigilance, overreliance on automation, and skill degradation, when implementing automation in mining. There is a wealth of knowledge on human factors considerations and challenges faced when implementing automation in related fields and industries that should be summarized to benefit the mining industry.

Identifying and documenting human factors considerations will help stakeholders involved with the design, development, and implementation of automation build systems that take into consideration human capabilities. In turn, those individuals using the automated systems at mines will benefit from improved safety, performance, and usability. These individuals may include mine workers, mine managers, health and safety professionals, mobile equipment operators, and anyone who interacts with automated systems. This is a pilot project; although we do plan to engage stakeholders to collect feedback on the information and preliminary tools developed, impact will not be explicitly evaluated.

Preliminary work will help identify different continua or levels of automation from current literature and synthesize them for use in mining. A review of literature will then be conducted to develop a taxonomy of human factors considerations and challenges associated with automation. Finally, we will map the taxonomy of human factors considerations and challenges onto the synthesized continuum of automation. Field visits to mines and interviews with stakeholders who have implemented automation (e.g., ASI, sedan) will yield lessons learned from mining and non-mining sectors and will help further document human factors challenges. Based on the taxonomy of automation challenges, a framework of potential health and safety risks will be described for each level of automation. Health and safety risks may include psychosocial issues, acute injuries, and cumulative disorders. Health and safety risks will not be limited to the operator but will include all miners involved in the automated work system. Finally, preliminary pilot tool tools will be developed to help identify human-centered challenges and health and safety risks associated with automation. The taxonomy of challenges and framework for health and safety issues will help designers learn about and implement safer automated processes by considering a human centered approach and accounting for the entire work system.

Future work could include expanding this area of research to develop a comprehensive guidebook of human factors challenges with automation specifically for the mining sector by providing detailed descriptions of the challenges, documented decrements or improvements in human and system performance, and real-world examples of each of the challenges. The guidebook could also provide solutions to some human factors challenges and identify methods to test and evaluate issues where solutions are not currently available. Future work could also include further development of the preliminary pilot tool to increase its thoroughness, usability, and availability to the mining industry. The objective of this future work would also be to ensure automated system designers, developers, and implementors are aware of human factors challenges and can identify and remediate them prior to the use of the automated systems.

Page last reviewed: December 9, 2021
Page last updated: December 9, 2021