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Procedures and Devices to Monitor Operator Alertness Whilst Operating Machinery in Open Cut Coal Mines: Stage 1: State-of-the-art Review, Stage 2: Development of Pilot Program

Open Cut » Health and Safety

Published: June 99Project Number: C8035

Get ReportAuthor: Nick Mabbott, Mary Lydon, Laurence Hartley, Pauline Arnold | ARRB Transport Research

Stage 1 of this project focused upon the identification of an appropriate fatigue monitoring device for implementation into the open-cut coal mining industry. The project team resolved that a device similar to the Roadguard stimuli-reaction task would be the most appropriate for implementation into the open-cut coal mining industry. The initial device was designed to test alertness levels of truck drivers in the normal truck driving task. There are several differences between the operations of truck drivers and mine machinery operators. Thus, changes and improvements are necessary for the device to have a practical application in open-cut coal mines. It was recommended that the project proceed to the second stage - developing a pilot program to test the effectiveness of the fatigue monitoring device.

The device to be developed for the pilot program will operate in three defined stages. They are listed below:

STAGE 1 - Visual signal

  • Illuminated lamp lit on either side of control panel.
  • Left or right lamp lit in random order.
  • Initial presentation in random time sequences of between 11 and 15 minutes.
  • Reaction made by pressing one of two touch pads (forced choice between left and right touch pads).
  • Device records reaction time information and compares reaction time with pre-determined baseline measure.
  • Slow reaction or no response to stimuli decreases the time interval between visual signal presentations and elicits stage 2 of the device.
  • Warning to supervisor when the operator's responses become slow enough to decrease the stimulus interval period.

STAGE 2 - Auditory signal

  • Auditory signal presented when slow or non-response to visual signal.
  • Reaction made by pressing either of the touch pads used in stage 1.
  • Slow reaction or no response elicits stage 3 of the device.

STAGE 3 - Vehicle shut-down

  • ?Vehicle shut-down when slow reaction or non-response to auditory signal.
  • Warning sent to supervisor that operator's vehicle has been disabled due to slow or non-response to stimuli.
  • Details of vehicle location sent to supervisor (via GPS).

In consultation with the ACARP representatives, it was decided that the pilot program would focus on implementation and measurement of the device in haul trucks. This would allow the most simple and cost effective alterations and advances to the device, and provide a controlled variable (the haul truck), rather than testing the device on several types of machinery. If the pilot is successful, the device can then be altered to suit other machinery on an accident priority basis.

The pilot project has been designed to allow sound scientific analysis and costs have been estimated accordingly. The cost of the pilot could be reduced whilst still enabling evaluation to take place, however, the reliability of the research findings would also be adversely affected.

The state-of-the-art literature review conducted in Stage 1 (Mabbott et al. 1999) of this project has provided the research team with a sound knowledge of the problems inherent in fatigue monitoring. This has enabled the team to develop a device which may be capable of reducing incidents related to fatigue in open cut coal mining operators. Research into the effectiveness of current fatigue monitoring devices has demonstrated that there is much potential to reduce fatigue related incidents. Although there are no proven devices available, the potential for savings justifies the continued effort to develop and test new devices.

The final report details the proposed trial.

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