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

This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.
Principal Investigators
Start Date 10/1/2021
End Date 3/31/2023

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.

In this pilot project, researchers identified different continua or levels of automation from current literature and synthesized them for use in mining. A review of literature was then conducted to develop a taxonomy of human factors considerations and challenges associated with automation. Finally, researchers mapped the taxonomy of human factors considerations and challenges onto the synthesized continuum of automation. Based on the taxonomy of automation challenges, a framework of potential health and safety risks has been described for each level of automation. Health and safety risks include psychosocial issues, acute injuries, and cumulative disorders. 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 identifying which of the identified challenges are most critical, or those that can have the biggest impact, in terms of mine worker health and safety. Future work could also include the development of a tool, based on the available information, to help identify human-centered challenges and health and safety risks associated with automation. The end outcome would also be to ensure that 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: June 20, 2023
Page last updated: June 20, 2023