Putting a cap on mining fatigue

Operator/driver fatigue is responsible for significant injuries and losses across many global industries.

Now major mining companies are helping to combat fatigue with the SmartCap, fatigue-monitoring technology which is taking off around the world. Developed by CRCMining, SmartCap calculates a measure of drowsiness, which it wirelessly communicates to a display in-cab.

Major mining companies have implemented the solution across numerous sites, and CRCMining’s spin-off company EdanSafe has successfully attracted early stage investment.

Rio Tinto, Anglo American and a range of other mining companies are currently implementing the technology, while a host of other industries are also considering its adoption, including Maritime, Defence, Aviation, Oil and Gas, Transport and Logistics.

Designed for vehicle drivers or operators of heavy equipment, SmartCap comes in the form of a baseball cap with sophisticated sensors concealed in the cap lining which continually monitor the wearer’s brainwave (EEG) information to determine their level of impairment due to fatigue. The technology reduces the risk of fatigue related safety incidents while providing vital information to improve operational alertness.

Because it looks and feels like a typical baseball cap, the SmartCap overcomes the operator acceptance problems experienced by sites that in the past have implemented camera or response based technologies.

A key strength of SmartCap is that it is predictive in nature – alarms sound before micro-sleep events, averting the dangerous micro-sleeps before they happen.

SmartCap is also unique in providing operators with the ability to independently quantify and understand their fatigue. In response, growing numbers of operators are altering their lifestyles in a bid to improve their alertness while they operate large mining machinery.

The technology behind the SmartCap was developed with the support of four universities and 13 industry partners including equipment manufacturers and mining companies. Anglo American Metallurgical Coal (previously Anglo Coal Australia) and the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP) all backed the work over a period of years, leading to two successful field trials at central Queensland surface mining operations, where it was used by operators in haul trucks, excavators, dozers, graders and water trucks.

Outside of the mining industry, one Australian maritime company, Australian Reef Pilots (ARP), is already trialling the SmartCap to enhance ship, crew and environmental safety. ARP is undertaking one of the most comprehensive maritime fatigue studies in Australia, by developing a rigorous scientific study program using SmartCap.

Article written by the Department of Industry. Click here for the original.