Mining Industry Australia

Monday, August 26, 2013 by Chris Hocking

mining industry Australia

Fatigue is a significant safety issue in the mining industry throughout Australia and the world. Remote locations of many mines, combined with the nature of mining operations, has necessitated shift work and extended shift rosters to maintain 24-7 operations. The combination of long and irregular hours, night work, rotating shifts, often long DIDO (drive in/drive out) or FIFO (fly in/fly out) commutes, all contribute to fatigue risks. For personnel working in hazardous environments or performing safety critical tasks such as operating heavy mining equipment, these risks are exacerbated.

Operator fatigue is said to be one of the most prevalent causes of accidents, with an estimated 60-65% of haulage accidents directly related to fatigue. Even minor incidents can be very costly, not only in terms of human health and safety, but also the associated disruptions in productivity.

The Australian mining industry is one of the safest in the world and fatigue has long been recognised as an identified OH&S hazard.The introduction of guidelines and legislation ensures employers have a duty of care to identify, assess and control fatigue as part of their health and safety management programs. There is no doubt comprehensive fatigue management plans have positive effects on operator alertness, safety and productivity within the mining industry. However the effectiveness of these approaches can only go so far as fatigue is a common and unavoidable by-product of shift work. Even those with the best training and years of experience are not immune to fatigue.

Optalert and the Mining Industry

Technology that can detect the first signs of fatigue can be used to complement and enhance existing fatigue management approaches. The ability to continuously provide objective alertness information to the driver would provide an opportunity to change or modify behaviour in order to remain safe and alert, with the added benefit of helping drivers understand the importance lifestyle and external events can have on sleep-wake cycles and fatigue levels at work.

Optalert is the only safety system in the world that continuously provides scientifically-validated, objective alertness information to both drivers and supervisors in real-time. The continuous flow of information offers two layers of protection against the dangers of fatigue and allowsall parties to monitor the associated risk and initiate proactive measures before reaching dangerous levels.

Mining organisations are using the information provided by Optalert to quantify the impact of fatigue on their operations, from the driver level through to senior management. This objective information is being used positively as a tool for reinforcing operational decisions such as changes in tasks, shift-rotations, break times, or timing of appropriate fatigue countermeasures.

Over time, this data can also be used to the profile the overall fatigue-related risk of an entire operation. Quantifying changes in risk provides objective evidence regarding the effectiveness of a company's fatigue risk management policies and proceduresover periods of months or even years.

By Dr Andrew Tucker, General Manager Scientific Research

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