The mining and industrial workplace has continued to undergo a transformation during the last 12 months as technology plays an ever more crucial role both in employee safety, and boosting production and workflow.
Heading into 2018, there are a number of key areas which bosses and workforces should be looking at and here, Glyn Jones, CEO of Trolex Group, looks ahead to identify what will be the biggest changes and what new technology will have the biggest impact on the mining sector in the new year.
A change in emphasis from safety to health
When it comes to worker wellbeing, the recent historical focus has always been around making workplaces safer. Whether this is avoiding injury due to falling equipment, preventing explosions from gas, reducing injuries or even fatalities sustained from trips or falls, keeping employees safe at work has been – and will continue to be – a major part of industrial workplace health and safety.
However, what we are now seeing is a shift from general safety to concentrating more on employee health, especially long-term health due to working in hazardous environments.
The fact that the UK Health and Safety Executive has begun to shift its focus more towards worker health shows that this is going to be a major issue in 2018 and it will be interesting how this changing emphasis plays out as the year goes on.
Dust monitoring in particular is becoming the primary technology that is focussing more on long term health than imminent safety. Respirable dust exposure is one of the greatest hazards experienced by miners and workers in a wide range of industries, even today, and can cause serious long-term health implications. Over 1/2 million workers still die every year from the impacts of hazardous dust, and this is clearly unacceptable in a modern working context.
In recent years, dust monitoring and ventilation to keep environment as clear of particles as possible has become more the norm for operations, but 2018 will see this practice become much more important.
Increasing use of Real-time Strata monitoring in mines and tunnels
Real-time Strata monitoring is something that all mines and tunnels should already be implementing to prevent accidents and deaths, especially when it comes to rock falls.
There is now no excuse for a mining operation not to utilise real-time Strata monitoring as costs of installation have been significantly reduced and the subsequent increase in efficiency and production uptime typically bring a full ROI within a few months.
No one should be dying or being injured in mining operations from rock falls because all the technology is now available, and the safety components exist to remove this as a safety issue. In 2018, we can expect to see more mines taking advantage of Strata monitoring and this technology will play a much bigger role in operations in the future.
We can expect the use of fibre optic connectors to increase in 2018 as it becomes a more widely utilised communications technology.
Ex Fibre optic connectors allow for much safer and efficient connections throughout an operation, and bring into play a much wider range of equipment that can be deployed and maintained easily within a mine or industrial operation. They minimise signal interference and in their new form, can now stand up to being used in arduous and hazardous environments.
We are also likely to see an increase in the use of connectors, like those provided by Trolex which can be assembled rapidly and robustly without the need for special tools, as efficiency and ease-of-use of heavy duty connectors becomes an increasingly important selling point.
Whilst these types of connectors are more typically used in offshore platforms and rigs, the improving technology plays into the wider emphasis on health and safety in other industries including mining, that we can expect in 2018.
These are, of course, just some of the industrial and mining trends we are likely to see impacting these sectors in the next 12 months, and undoubtedly there will be many more things happening throughout the year.
Either way, despite some challenging recent years, we are all excited about the future of our industry, and to working towards a vision where nobody faces the risk of injury or death in hazardous working conditions.
Learn more about how safety managers plan to challenge respirable dust exposure in hazardous environments using real-time monitoring technology by downloading our eBook.