Tag Archives: NIOSH

NIOSH asks miners to fill mine automation knowledge gaps

An agency within the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has asked miners to provide information on the rapidly-expanding area of automation as it looks to address the safety and health implications of humans working with automated equipment and associated technologies in mining.

NIOSH’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently established a research programme to address automation and associated technologies in mining and sees this as one way to fill any knowledge gaps it has.

The emphasis of the research is on “worker safety and health research in which NIOSH has the comparative advantage, and is unlikely to be undertaken by other federal agencies, academia, or the private sector,” it said.

NIOSH said electronic or written comments must be received by May 17, 2019.

In a background note to the request, NIOSH said: “The mining industry has been undergoing significant changes as companies look to adopt automation technologies to decrease costs and increase efficiency and, according to some companies, improve safety.

“These new technologies include automated mobile equipment, robotics, tele-operation, wireless communications and sensing systems, wearable sensors and computers, virtual and augmented reality, and data analytics.

“Surface iron ore mines in Western Australia are moving rapidly to adopt automation technologies, and they appear to be the closest in achieving completely autonomous mining. In US mines, the adoption of automation technology is gaining momentum, with some of the first automation having been applied to processing facilities, drilling equipment, underground coal mine longwalls, and now pilot projects with automated haulage trucks and loaders.”

It added: “To prepare for expanded use of automation technologies, NIOSH seeks to both proactively address worker health and safety challenges that may be associated with automation, as well as leverage new technologies to improve miner health and safety.

“To understand the state of automation technologies, their implementation in the US, and the health and safety concerns associated with the technology, NIOSH seeks public input on the following questions:

“1. To what extent will automation and associated technologies be implemented in mining and in what timeframe?

“2. What are the related health and safety concerns with automation and associated technologies in mining?

“3. What gaps exist in occupational health and safety research related to automation and associated technologies?

“4. What are the major safety concerns associated with humans working near or interacting with automated mining equipment? Have other organisations addressed the safety concerns associated with humans working near or interacting with automated mining equipment?

“5. What research has been conducted, or approaches taken, to address the potential for human cognitive processing confusion, misunderstanding, and task or information overload associated with monitoring or controlling automated mining equipment or other monitoring systems (eg fleet management, environmental monitoring, safety systems, health care systems)?

“6. What is the state of the art for display methodologies and technologies to provide mine personnel and equipment operators with information on operational status, location, and sensory and environmental feedback from automated mining equipment or systems?

“7. What sensor technology improvements are needed to ensure the safety of humans working on or near automated equipment?

“8. How are existing methods of big data analytics applied to automated mining equipment or systems? Are there health and safety benefits to these applications?

“9. Are there any needed improvements to guidelines or industry standards for automated mining system safe design and operation practices?

“10. Are there any needed improvements to training materials, training protocols, and operating procedures for system safety design principles related to automated mining systems?”

The agency added: “NIOSH is especially interested in any creative and new ideas as they relate to protecting the health and safety of miners today and in the future.”

Companies can leave comments on the Regulations.gov page, by clicking here.

NIOSH devises new FAST software for respirable crystalline silica monitoring

The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has launched a beta version of new software designed to help miners reduce their exposure to hazardous respirable crystalline silica (RCS).

The NIOSH Mining Program has devised the FAST (Field Analysis of Silica Tool) field-based tool to work with commercially-available FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared) analysers to determine a worker’s exposure to RCS dust, providing detailed results immediately following a worker’s shift.

NIOSH said: “Mineworkers face the danger of potential overexposure to RCS dust every day. Overexposure can lead to the development of diseases such as silicosis, lung cancer, coal workers’ pneumoconiosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. These diseases are disabling, irreversible and, potentially, fatal.”

Key to controlling RCS at mines is the ability to quickly assess the degree of exposure, according to NIOSH.

Traditional methods require mines to send samples to a commercial lab for analysis and wait for the results to be returned. Because the conditions in mines change constantly, however, immediate RCS results are needed to establish when and where high concentrations exist and to ensure that, when they do, they do not persist across shifts.

NIOSH Associate Director for Mining, Jessica Kogel said: “FAST provides a vital link for mines seeking better RCS monitoring tools by bringing the laboratory to the field.”

The FAST software is designed to work in concert with an easily implemented monitoring approach, also developed by NIOSH, which uses portable FTIR analysers and dust sampling cassettes at the mine site. The combination of all three allows mines to quickly address the source of the exposure by eliminating the wait time between collecting a sample and receiving the lab results, NIOSH says.

“Further, the monitoring approach does not degrade the dust sampling cassette, so mines can still send samples for lab testing to verify the RCS results if they wish.”

The results generated by FAST at the mine can be used immediately to identify high-exposure areas and associated work tasks, which helps mines both to stay within exposure compliance limits and to proactively protect the health of their workers.

NIOSH extensively lab tested the monitoring approach that works with the FAST software, then field tested the approach in the US and internationally, collecting dust samples in coal mines as well as samples from other types of mines. This testing led to the release of the beta version of the software to allow for further user feedback.

Future releases of FAST will offer improved accuracy for commodity types besides coal, and will also have the potential to be used beyond the mining industry, NIOSH said.