One of the current hottest topic within mining technologies is fatigue management and how to implement it on the haul tucks at a mine site. Fatigue compromises safety for everyone on site and reduces the bottom line for the organization. SMART (Surface Mining Association of Research & Technology) completed a survey with over 25+ mine sites just over a year ago and in general, almost all mining companies have identified or realize operator fatigue issues as their operations are 24/7.
Managing fatigue without implementation of technology should still be done alongside potential technological applications; fatigue management is not simply a relationship with oneself but also the relationship between the operator as his peers, family and community. The mine that I was working at recently would not only educate operators but also educate their families to realize the importance of encouraging, giving and allowing the operator a good rest between and before shifts. There is a lot of discussion around what prevention techniques there are (shorter shifts, more breaks during shifts, recommendation not to eat a hot lunch during night shifts, etc.) but this article will focus on the measuring and alarming of operator fatigue.
Through discussions with multiple mining companies, I have learnt recently at SME that there are multiple products out there but almost all of them share a different science behind the product. The major players (that I know of with implementations or beta tests within the mining industry) are as follows:
1. FatigueAlertTM with ASTIDTM (Advisory System for Tired Drivers) – This product is manufactured by FMI (Fatigue Management International, based in the UK) and distributed by MMSI (Modular Mining Systems, based in the US). To calculate the amount of fatigue a driver is experiencing, they measure time of day, lack of sleep, type of haulage route, and the vehicle movement such as steering. It is the only non-behavioral based method within these 4 sciences on this post. To my understanding, future plans include having the dispatching system adjust the haul route based on the fatigue system’s input. More information can be found on ASTID’s website.
2. Seeing machines/Guardvant – Both Seeing Machines and Guardvant utilizes facial recognition via a webcam to determine type and level of operator fatigue. Seeing Machines has an operator seat that will vibrate/alert the driver based on various fatigue events. They measure eye movement, head position & rotation, eyelid aperture, lip & eyebrow movement, and pupil size. Seeing Machines has the largest market share within mining for implementations. Guardvant utilizes both operator’s behavior and machine performance to assess operator fatigue – you can integrate their outputs with modern fleet management systems for real time event alarm exceptions. Video & GPS data is available for full investigations after any incident/accident occurs (this is a feature that many OTMs have or you can add it as an option).
3. SmartCap – This company manufactures a baseball cap (and a hardware box on the truck) with sensors within the cap lining. If you don’t like caps, they have headbands and visors as alternatives. They use operator’s brain wave (EEG) information to measure level of fatigue which then outputs the information to a display in the cab or a bluetooth enabled device. Note: PPE should always be use as directed and a smart cap should never be worn underneath a hard hat. More information can be found on SmartCap’s website.
4. OPTALERT – Their science is behavior based and utilizes a profile analyzer system to determine the early onset of driver drowsiness. There are two pieces of hardware on the driver and the truck: OPTALERT Glasses and OPTALERT Dashboard Indicator. The glasses measure the operator’s eyelids (500x/second) and the dashboard indicator shows a driver their alertness level displayed from 0 to 10. They have a good discussion online on fatigue vs drowsiness, risks, circadian rhythms, warning signs and strategies for dealing with drowsiness. Their website has more information on the science behind their technology.
Tips and Notes:
- Depending what hardware you already have on your mobile equipment, you may discuss purchasing or testing the software only from the OTMs above using your own platform to reduce costs and reduce on-board hardware clutter.
- These type of technologies can work on other equipment besides haul trucks.
- Beware of having too many displays in the truck; the general rule is that the more screens your operators have within the cab, the less attention they’ll pay to any given screen.
- Your out-the-door pricing is in the same ballpark for each product with their package pricing per truck and for their base software + licenses (if applicable).
- Measure and test both false positives and false negatives when evaluating the product.
- One option is to test out the different sciences and products, with a side by side comparison and find the correlation (given time as a base) in fatigue levels, fatigue events, drowsiness, operator alert, etc. I do not know of a mining company that has done that with published information.
- At the same time during testing of the product, measure type of sleep that an operator is getting by using Actigraph (measure the amount and intensity of human activity) over a 24 hour period. For example, even though the operator was sleeping, if he/she was moving around intensely throughout the night, perhaps he didn’t get a very good/deep sleep. Actigraph will also display the drowsiness/fatigue equivalent in blood alcohol content.
Disclaimer: This post is not an endorsement of any products. At this time of writing, the author was not paid or compensated in any way from any supplier listed on this posting. The author has not personally done a full scale testing of any of the above products at a mine site. If there are technical mistakes, please contact the author directly for edits. Just in case the domain name vivienhui.com and miningenginerd.com didn’t make it clear, this site is my personal blog. That means that the opinions, if any, expressed on this blog are mine only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of my previous or current employers.