New technologies confront mining organizations with unprecedented human factors challenges. Likely problem areas range from the design of the human-machine interface to the design of work groups and mine organizational structures. However, these human design considerations are commonly ignored in most industries, resulting in a failure rate of 75 pct for advanced technology programs. The U.S. Bureau of Mines is addressing these concerns through a program of research on the human side of high-technology mining systems. Interviews with mining industry participants and researchers have identified concerns in several areas, including training and equipment design. Based on these interviews and a review of the research, the sociotechnical systems analysis (ssa) approach has been selected as a comprehensive and systematic approach to melding the human and technological aspects of new, complex technologies. Ssa has been widely used, frequently with significant success. It advocates joint optimization of the social system (people and their interactions) and the technical system (tools, techniques, knowledge), since optimizing these independently does not lead to peak performance. Also, some of the formative research on ssa was performed in British longwall coal mines and a U.S. continuous mining operation. Ssa provides specific organizational manipulations and techniques that can be tailored to each organization and its technology.
Proc. Int'l Symp. on Mine Mechanization & Automation, V II. Colorado Sch. Mines, 1991, Pp 16-9--16-18