Regulators Seek Feedback on Mining Automation Safety, Health Issues

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Federal regulators are looking for insight into the safety and health issues related to mining automation and associated technologies.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted in their request the rapid adoption of automated mining in Australia and the increasing momentum for the adoption of such technologies in the United States. In the U.S., the agency wrote in the Federal Register, some of the first automation has been applied to processing facilities, drilling equipment, underground coal mine longwalls. There are now pilot projects underway with automated haulage trucks and loaders, the agency said.

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NIOSH is seeking comment on three research questions in particular:

  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?

NIOSH is also seeking to 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 better understand the state of automation technologies, their implementation in the United States, and the health and safety concerns associated with the technology, NIOSH said, it would like input on the following questions:

  1. What are the major safety concerns associated with humans working near or interacting with automated mining equipment? Have other organizations addressed the safety concerns associated with humans working near or interacting with automated mining equipment? If yes, please provide a description.
  2. 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 (e.g.,fleet management, environmental monitoring, safety systems, health care systems)?
  3. 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?
  4. What sensor technology improvements are needed to ensure the safety of humans working on or near automated equipment?
  5. How are existing methods of big data analytics applied to automated mining equipment or systems? Are there health and safety benefits to these applications? If yes, please describe.
  6. Are there any needed improvements to guidelines or industry standards for automated mining system safe design and operation practices? If yes, please describe.
  7. Are there any needed improvements to training materials, training protocols, and operating procedures for system safety design principles related to automated mining systems? If yes, please describe.

Comments can be submitted to https://www.regulations.gov. They also can be submitted by mail to: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH Docket Office, 1090 Tusculum Avenue, MS C-34, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226-1998. The Docket Number is CDC-2019-0016.