A vital international effort, of which Booyco Electronics plays a part, in mine safety, is reinforcing efforts by South African authorities to find more effective ways of avoiding mine accidents, and proximity detection systems (PDS) are under the spotlight as a key enabler in this quest.
[quote]According to Anton Lourens, MD of Booyco Electronics, a vitally important standardisation process has been underway between industry stakeholders through the Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table (EMESRT) – a safety-related initiative started a decade ago by mining giants Rio Tinto, Barrick Gold, Glencore, Newmont and Anglo American.
The aim of EMESRT is to accelerate the development and adoption of leading practice designs to minimise health and safety risks, through engaging with OEMs, suppliers and end-users.
“EMESRT has done extensive and valuable research into past accidents across all organisations, and has outlined the most high risk scenarios that have resulted in fatalities,” says Lourens.
“These scenarios are now being more specifically defined, and the EMESRT is asking PDS suppliers to offer a solution that will address the significant risk in that specific scenario – and that includes Booyco Electronics.”
The process has now advanced to the point where a performance functionality requirement for all PDS equipment is being implemented.
“This is a great step forward, as a key problem that PDS suppliers like Booyco Electronics face is that we have to deal with over dozens OEMs when presenting our systems, and when talking to them about how our systems could be adapted to each OEM’s equipment,” explains Lourens.
“Similarly, every OEM has to speak to dozens of PDS suppliers about their respective interfaces and developments.”
Now, through the EMESRT process, there is an objective and significant agreement that there will be a single, standard communication protocol and interface – and this will apply between any PDS supplier, such as Booyco Electronics, and any OEM.
“As a supplier with significant market share, Booyco Electronics encourages this process and embraces its outcomes, as it raises the bar in terms of what suppliers can offer the mining industry,” he says.
“This is crucial to enable mines to further improve their health and safety performance.”
He explains how EMESRT had invited PDS suppliers and OEMs from the global market to a conference in Australia 18 months ago.
“The mining houses presented to Booyco Electronics what they wanted to achieve in terms of PDS, and we engaged in an interactive workshop in which they asked us about the available technology, as well as what can and can’t be done in this field,” Lourens says.
“When considering EMESRT’s requirements, there are certainly some technology limitations; one technology can provide some of the solutions, but not others – whereas another technology may be stronger on those other aspects. There is no single technology that gives them an all-inclusive solution.”
A sub-committee within the EMESRT was set up to generate a PDS functionality specification. PDS has two components: on one side is the sensing technology, which detects the presence of machine and people; and on the other side are the OEMs, whose equipment must utilise the sensing data.
The collaborative forum that Booyco Electronics contributes to, has allowed the identification of key issues, and within the working group there are individuals dealing with the detailed aspects of each issue.
The process is not driven by technology but by solutions, according to Lourens.
“Any supplier can employ their own technology to achieve the required outcomes,” he says.
“Ultimately all PDS suppliers have to give a certain standard protocol and list of information to the OEMs to make this initiative work. By the same token, the OEMs have undertaken to incorporate those protocols into their control system – whatever their specific system might be.”
Closer to home in South Africa, the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) has also been pushing for more effective implementation of PDS solutions.
“We need to remember that the second-most common cause of fatalities in South African mines – after falls of ground – is moving machinery,” he says.
“In terms of the DMR’s mandate to promote zero harm, they consider the safety statistics on mines and they argue that we have to do something differently.”
For the past five or six years, therefore, the DMR have been encouraging closer regulation and commitment from stakeholders; in February 2015, an amendment to Chapter 8 of the Mines Health and Safety Act was published, requiring that a PDS to be installed on all mobile equipment on mines, if identified as a significant risk.
While there are still some areas to be ironed out in how the new law is understood and implemented, Lourens says the EMESRT process would feed positively into SA’s mine safety regulations – as our own Mine Health and Safety Council had agreed to adopt the work that EMESRT has done, as a basis for the country’s best practice and legal requirements.
Feature image credit: Booyco Electronics