Improving Underground Pedestrian Safety
The ultimate safety goal for any mining company is achieving a zero-incident work environment. The industry has made great strides in improving its performance by assessing risks, measuring performance, training employees, rewarding achievement and adopting best practices.
One issue that has consistently been ranked as a major risk by our industry and our own operations is the potential for collisions between underground mobile equipment and pedestrians. In 2015, our Goldex mine piloted a new underground safety monitoring system – MineProx™ by Newtrax – to test
its ability to improve the detection of people working in blind spots, enhance operator situational awareness and contribute to a safer workplace. Dany Cloutier, Goldex’s Health and Safety Advisor, and Guillaume Lachapelle, Agnico Eagle’s Corporate Director of Health, Safety and Security, discuss the findings to date.
“We decided to test this system after we experienced several near miss situations between mobile equipment and pedestrians across our mine sites,” says Dany. “Goldex was mandated to carry out the pilot and share our findings with all Agnico Eagle mines – to see if it is a good solution to this problem.” MineProx™ by Newtrax is a proximity warning and collision avoidance system specially designed for underground hard
rock mines. It uses radio frequencies (RF) to detect individuals, vehicles and hazards underground, using a vehicle proximity transceiver-dashboard display panel; cap lamps with RF badges that emit signals; and fixed hazard beacons. “We conducted a series of tests to evaluate MineProx’s effectiveness including fixed hazard detection and emergency stop response, parked vehicle detection, signal distance, nuisance alarm, and proximity warning – that is, its ability to detect individuals working in blindspots and around corners.” When an operator receives advance warning of a vehicle or person’s presence he can slow down or stop the vehicle as required. It is strictly a decision support tool for the operator – in no circumstances does the system take control of the vehicle. A pedestrian concerned about getting hit can also push the emergency button on his cap lamp to send an emergency stop signal to all operators in the area. This can also be used as a signal in case of mine evacuation.
According to Guillaume, “We’re always looking for ways to improve our overall safety performance and this could be a new tool to help us prevent accidents and reduce collision risks underground. This is consistently cited as a high risk in our risk register and in our ongoing safety analysis. We already have training, procedures, processes and rules to avoid these situations, but we decided to go one step further. However, whenever you are investing in technology, you need to make sure it is reliable and can actually perform properly in an underground environment. The bottom line is we need to ensure it can detect people and vehicles in different situations and con-figurations in order to improve underground pedestrian safety. We are reviewing the test results to date and we anticipate making a decision later in 2016 on whether to implement the system over the next few years across Agnico Eagle,” Guillaume concludes.