Mining Safety – Why Data Could Save Your Workforce Beyond COVID-19

helmets, safety

While COVID-19 has left a trail of destruction, there have, thankfully, been some notable positives. For me, one of those is that personal and community safety has become ‘top of the agenda’ again.

While mining sites adapt to operating mines with spatial distancing challenges, it will be essential to continue the focus on operational safety as well.

In fact, with mine sites generally quieter overall now might be a good time to put measures in place to help bring about lasting change.

As we return to our “new normal” there is certainly no better time than now to make sure that mining safety remains top of mind as we emerge from a chaotic few months.

Mining Safety as a Number One Priority

For a mining operation, mining safety is and always will be the number one priority, even before COVID-19. I’m proud to be part of an industry where there is a strong safety culture, and there are strict measures in place to ensure worker safety.

Zero tolerance to drugs and alcohol are some obvious ones, as is a renewed focus around the effects of fatigue.

Add in programs around mental health and combating some significant challenges for FIFO workers, and we’re starting to see some well-rounded approaches to sites achieving ‘zero harm’ goals.

Even though our knowledge around the variability and lack of visibility in key metrics and indicators in mining operations are quite high, we all know there are still a lot of gaps that are accidents waiting to happen.

The Frequency of Mining Accidents in Australia

Before COVID-19, every fortnight I heard of at least one incident of a near-miss fatality, whether that be of light vehicles being crushed by heavy mobile equipment or collisions between dig units and trucks. The regularity of mining accidents in Australia remains high.

As a father of two, my mind often wanders to the individuals involved in those incidents and what might have been, had they not been so ‘lucky’.

I’m avid about mining safety because at the end of the day this is about people and individuals, their personal safety, and them going home to their families.

Thoughts On How To Improve Mining Safety

Awareness of Mine Safety

The first step is to create awareness of the problem so that we can change behaviours and move toward helping people be responsible for their own safety, and not solely reliant on imperfect systems.

Helping create awareness and providing the ‘high vis’ people need to visualise specific problems, is data.

Using Information Technology in the Mining Industry

Via MaxMine’s black box functionality, we are providing high visibility data so that we can accurately analyse incidents and precisely pinpoint why they occurred.

Sometimes this will point to machine performance or asset health, and other times, operator behaviour.

Regardless of the ‘why’, the outcome is to be armed with the information in order to change behaviours. You can only do that through the transparency of high visibility.

As an example of this, I was chatting to a general manager of a site who said that one of his biggest problems is that an incident will occur, and there may only be one witness – the person that was central to the incident, and there is not enough reliable and high-resolution data to verify what happened.

So as a general manager, he intends to ensure the safety of his workforce while also wanting to put in controls to ensure it does not happen again.

But without a complete picture of what happened, how do you put in controls to prevent it happening again? And what is the point of putting in that control if you’re not confident you’re addressing the root cause of the incident?

Three Ways Data Can Help:

Data from your Mining Equipment bridges that gap and allows you to answer those questions.

  • The right mine site data acts like an aeroplane’s ‘black box’. It is the modern-day equivalent of a high vis vest, albeit in retrospective.
  • Data allows you to look to the future and change behaviours by learning what happened in the past and more importantly, why it happened.
  • With the ability to capture robust data including everything from gear usage, driver speed and corner conformance, to whether operators stopped at a stop sign, data provides high-resolution visibility on all major assets.

Data allows for incident investigation, useful implementation of changes, and change management or mitigation measures.

Importantly, it also creates an individual awareness that there is a ‘black box’ there, increasing the need to be responsible for your own actions.

This is not about ‘big brother’ attitudes and criticising poor performance; this is about encouraging people to do the right thing because that is the right thing to do.

For our clients, it has been an overwhelmingly positive decision for them and their operators because they are now safer.

Evidence of Data Ensuring Mining Safety

We are proud of the safety records at sites we operate on.

For example, at a Tier 1 mine where MaxMine has been in place for almost three years, we are glad to report there have not been any major incidents even while we’ve helped safely increase average their truck speed by 16%.

This is evidence to suggest the system works. Data works, and data can literally save lives.

Isn’t that the high vis we all want?

If you’re keen to chat about how data can make your site safer, please reach out to us.

Tom Cawley – CEO, Resolution Systems

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