Operator fatigue is one of the most common causes of accidents in the mining industry today. In open-pit mining alone, around 65% of truck haulage accidents are directly related to drivers feeling tired or exhausted, according to data released by Caterpillar Global Mining and Equipment.
The sector is all too aware of these dangers and has long been looking for systems and solutions to manage the situation.
Enter Seeing Machines, an Australia-based supplier of eye-tracking technology that senses if a driver is distracted or falling asleep at the wheel.
The Fatigue Monitoring System has been used across the automotive, transport and aviation industries for some time, and last month Caterpillar struck a deal to implement the patented solution in 40,000 mining trucks around the globe.
Fatigue Monitoring System
The solution features a unit the size of a laptop, which is placed on the dashboard of a mining vehicle and linked up to cameras which measure operator eye-lid behaviour to determine the onset of fatigue and micro-sleeps.
This enables warnings to be given through seat vibrations, or an alarm that alerts site management for direct intervention.
Seeing Machines believes the innovation, which costs $10,000 per unit, will be fixed in cabins as a matter of course around ten years from now, just like airbags.
By tracking eye and head movements, Caterpillar can build health profiles on each driver it employs and suggest life-style changes, based on these profiles, such as sleeping more, eating well and drinking less alcohol.
During the next few months, Caterpillar will supply and support the Fatigue Monitoring System through its global dealer network, and later stages include joint product development and monitoring.
Caterpillar Global Mining Safety Solutions manager David Edwards said Seeing Machines delivers both safety and productivity benefits to the mining industry.
"Going forward we see even closer integration between what in-cab fatigue-monitoring can deliver in both intervention alerts and analytics to improve safety and performance," Edwards added.
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