In February 2015, the government of South Africa made unprecedented news when it amended the Mine Health and Safety Act, placing regulations related to mine machinery and equipment.
From 2004‐2009, 35% of fatalities at mine sites were due to vehicle interaction incidents and 53% of these involved pedestrians. In response to this data, South Africa’s amendment to their policies required employers to take reasonable and practicable measures ensuring pedestrians are prevented from injury from collisions with trackless mobile machines.
Despite South Africa’s response to the need for safer mines, the discussion to improve safety in mines began nearly a decade earlier between mine operators and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Mining companies recognized that OEMs can and have demonstrated improvements in equipment designs, especially when they have understood the operational and maintenance risks from the customer perspective. In 2005, this issue evolved into a formal global mining initiative, driven by a desire to fill the knowledge gap between customers and equipment designers whilst focusing on new designs where the opportunity for major change was not only possible but also more economic.
At that point, the Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table (EMESRT) was created. This initiative has led to productive dialogue and best practices based on the needs of both mining organizations and OEMs. Members include many of the world’s top mining companies, including Barrick, Glencore, Anglo American, and Rio Tinto.
And now Newtrax, the leading provider of IoT safety and proximity detection solutions for hard rock underground mining operations, is happy to continue collaborative dialogue and protocols as a key stakeholder of EMESRT.
EMESRT Vehicle Interaction Protocol Development
One of the projects EMESRT has been charged with is developing an open-architecture industry communications standard for proximity detection and vehicle interaction. In a 2015 workshop, the group of OEMs, proximity detection suppliers (PDS) and mining companies discussed a common protocol for communications between PDS and OEM devices in the mining industry.
Since its formation, EMESRT has established nine levels of Incident Preventative Controls.
- Site Requirements
- Segregation Controls
- Operating Procedures
- Authority to Operate
- Fitness to Operate
- Operating Compliance
- Operator Awareness
- Advisory Controls
- Intervention Controls
The ninth level (L9) of PDS solutions is the performance requirement best suited for Newtrax involvement in the group. L9 will help establish technologies that automatically intervene and take some form of machine control to prevent or mitigate an unsafe interaction.
According to a 2015 report from EMESRT, there are some levels of solutions for electric underground vehicles. Underground diesel machines have continued to lack interoperability. In fact, the development of proximity detection systems linked to the machine’s interface has been unique for each machine. This leaves a number of different challenges for operating mines. On any mine, there will never be only one brand/type of equipment. Hence the interoperability of the multiple relationships between the levels of sensing and intelligence/rules and the different vehicles is essential to achieve an overall mine site solution for the industry.