No matter if you’re operating underground or in an open pit, there are numerous safety issues facing an operation. Integrity of the surrounding rock, the presence of noxious gases, risks associated with explosives, heavy equipment operating in close quarters… mines commit significant time and resources to understanding and minimising a long list of risks. And one of the most complex of all to address is vehicle to vehicle, or vehicle to human collision avoidance.
Before addressing the topic, it’s worth understanding some of the terminology and what it means in reality. A good starting point is an index developed by the Earth Moving Equipment Safety Roundtable (www.emesrt.org) – a trade body dedicated to improving the safety environment around mechanical equipment (see chart below).
Before proximity detection technologies existed, many mines employed a buddy/trust system where operators share their proximity by way of tags when they are working in the vicinity of each other. However well tried and trusted, these systems aren’t real-time, and can be a significant distraction, requiring multiple production sapping down times in order to follow the process.
Managing collision avoidance starts with good design and planning for the long term, and implementing an effective proximity detection solution is a step in the right direction. While it seems intuitive that an operator will take more care when he is aware of other vehicles/personnel within his zone of operation, reality is that, even in these instances, mistakes happen, with fatal consequences. Ultimately a collision avoidance solution (CAS) is the ideal way to ensure round-the-clock-safety of your assets. The evolution to a full CAS is the only way mines can fully minimise the risk of an accident in real-time.
Right or wrong, the regulatory environment surrounding potential collisions is fuzzy at best with only the South African government implementing a Level 9 CAS requirement at all mining operations within the country. While regulation is a big driver for implementing technology, too often it takes a catastrophic event to ignite action and lead to the implementation of a PDS/CAS.
There are a variety of technologies out there that seek to address the risk associated with proximity. Understanding your local conditions is key to evaluating what solution is right for you; at Ramjack, we focus on spending time understanding the specific operating environments, and the associated requirements. As a systems integrator focused on the mining industry, we are able to provide best of breed solutions that address challenges unique to your operations. Reach out and ask us about our range of PDS/CAS solutions and let us help with advice on which would be the most effective solution for your operation.