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demolition and earthmoving

The new technologies lowering risks for quarry workers

Posted on May 14th, 2018 in General, Mining

Safety in quarries has improved significantly over the past decade, but mining still has one of the highest fatality rates of any Australian industry.

According to the most recent figures from Safe Work Australia, mining deaths fell by 65 percent from 2003 to 2015, down from 12.4 fatalities per 100,000 workers to just 4.4. But with nine workers dying each year on average, there’s still room for improvement.

The answer would seem to lie in digital technologies such as automation, drones and wearables, which have already been proven to make quarries safer – at least for operators that can afford them.

What are the biggest risks?

Quarry workers are exposed to many hazards that can result in serious injuries or worse. The most common risks are:

  • Body stressing – muscular stress from lifting and carrying objects accounted for 39 percent of compensation claims between 2001-2015.
  • Slips, trips and falls – responsible for 25 percent of claims, most relating to falls on the same level.
  • Impacts – contact with moving objects, mobile plant, machinery and transport made up 18 percent of claims.

What technologies improve safety?

Quarry sites can reduce the risk of serious injuries and fatalities by investing in digital technologies designed with the safety of workers as a priority. These include:

Driverless vehicles

Autonomous trains and trucks are already a common sight in Pilbara’s iron ore sites and will become more widespread as the technology matures and becomes more affordable.

Since BHP Billiton introduced self-driving trucks at the Jimblebar mine, potential safety incidents have been reduced by 20 percent along with haulage costs.

Drones

Fully autonomous drones were first employed on Australian mines at Worsley Alumina, engineered by Israeli start-up Airobotics for South32.

Drones can be employed for various jobs, from risk-free surveying and inspecting cranes and towers at height to making sure blast areas are clear and monitoring fume levels. As well as eliminating human risk, drones are capable of gathering greater quantities of data more efficiently.

Wearables

The mining industry was an early adopter of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, which is still in its earliest stages. Wearable devices that use sensors and screens to send, receive and display data are already improving safety in many different ways.

Personnel tracking gives precise real-time updates on where workers are located. Sensors embedded in clothing continually monitor the surrounding air quality, while those attached to equipment gather data that can predict and prevent malfunctions. Helmets with augmented reality (AR) displays can identify safety hazards and provide timely updates to wearers – all wireless and hands-free.

Upgrading to the latest safety technologies not only reduces the rate of incidents on mining sites, but also lowers insurance costs and corporate liability for employers, which helps to justify these investments even further.

What other challenges face the industry in 2018?

Hear industry leaders discuss the biggest challenges and opportunities in construction, demolition and quarrying at the first National Construction Equipment Convention (NCEC).

This three-day event takes place from 15-17 November 2018 at Sydney Showground in Sydney Olympic Park.

Find out more information about NCEC

Sources

Safe Work Australia. Mining. https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/industry_business/mining