By Mike Berube, president and COO, Strata Worldwide

The mining industry has seen an ever increasing availability of safety electronics over the last 10 years. The recent availability of products to detect the proximity of personnel and active equipment to one another has in particular been a major milestone in the prevention of serious injury and deaths in the mining industry. Experience has shown for proximity detection in an underground coal mining application to be effective, however, it is necessary the proximity detection system provide automated command and control of the equipment. This tight integration of systems is not without its challenges. This is especially true in situations when multiple pieces of equipment are in the same vicinity or when machine operators must be positioned on or adjacent to the equipment. System designers strive to minimize occurrences of nuisance alarms and equipment stoppages due to conditions which may be interpreted as safety conditions when, in fact, they are part of typical activity.

Strata, over the past five years, has supplied more than 1,000 proximity detection and collision avoidance systems that have provided static or highly dynamic safety zones on multiple types of equipment operating within close vicinity. The use of variable zones is used in conjunction with direct control over equipment functions. Strata will describe lessons learned, through the use of case studies, with regard to the effects of various zone configurations on personnel safety, production, and system acceptance.

This presentation will educate the audience on how proximity detection can be an extremely effective safety technology, while striking a balance with production demands. The critical element is the understanding of human behavior and distinguishing required human-machine interactions from those that put personnel at risk. Current technology allows the deployment of sophisticated systems providing highly dynamic safety zones and automated control capabilities, but it is the human factor that ultimately constrains what is practical and effective underground.