The results of this pilot study showed that the method of data collection and analysis successfully identifies the work positions and the quality of information available to a continuous miner operator to control the machine safely. With the help of research tools such as computer models and simulations to evaluate visual data, the results of this article reveal that knowing the work positions and visual needs of operators in performing their job has the potential to improve both equipment design and machine operating practices. Additionally, Mason, Rhodes and Best (1979) report that the use of the operators' specific locations and visual perspectives as a training tool could help operators make better decisions on safe work position. A 3-year study using the developed interview is currently underway to provide an in-depth examination of the visual attention locations(VALs), operator positions and machine feedback cues that operators use for controlling a continuous miner. A larger number of interviews (70 to 100) are planned at mine operations throughout the U.S. to analyze the VALs, work positions and their relative importance to the machine operator. Ranking the VALs will allow improved evaluations of each job phase for all mining configurations; however, a larger database is needed to do this. A larger database must have a better representation of operators and mining methods from a cross-section of underground mine operations in both eastern and western states. Additionally, the complex relationships between visual locations must be defined. For example, an operator on the right side of the machine might be able to imagine the VALs on the left side of the cutting drum if the right side of the drum is visible. Also, with a larger and more diversified database, comparing work positions and necessary VALs to injury data will be investigated. How these relationships apply in different situations, the operators' dependence on them, and potential control interventions adapted to machines to enhance VALs and optimize operator positions will be explored. Results indicate that the survey and underground observations were a good combination and technique to develop a database of important visual cues and locations an operator can see from a given work position and posture. Analysis techniques that determine which VALs an operator sees from a variety of positions in a computer simulation is shown to be potentially useful to the mining industry for design of work practices and section layout, and could impact equipment design or selection for improved worker safety through training. Based on the promising results of this study, an in-depth examination of operator cues and positioning is underway.
Accident-prevention; Equipment-operators; Equipment-reliability; Ergonomics; Injury-prevention; Machine-operation; Machine-operators; Miners; Mine-workers; Occupational-accidents; Occupational-hazards; Occupational-safety-programs; Questionnaires; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-practices; Underground-miners; Underground-mining; Work-areas; Work-environment; Worker-health; Worker-motivation; Work-operations; Work-performance; Workplace-studies; Work-practices