Security and human resource management in open pits


Open pits, like any other mining industry, imply an increased risk for the personnel and the others. In order to reduce these risks and increase the labor efficiency, modern mining companies are taking various measures nowadays:

  • Personnel control - gives answers to such questions as: who, where and when was located and what did he do there?;
  • Equipment control: application and transportation of the equipment and assets in the open pit, trespassing of authorized areas, transported load, promptness of service, etc.;
  • Visitors (incl. visitors from other companies) control: open pits are often visited by representatives of supervisory agencies, inspectors from the head office, the staff from other organizations. All these people need to be monitored so that they do not enter hazardous areas and stay within the specified area only.
  • Compliance with safety requirements control: monitoring if workers or visitors wear helmets if needed, whether people stay in the dangerous vicinity to the explosives, etc.

Until recently, it all required the use of different system in open cast mining: access control, video surveillance, Record Journals and many other.

In case of an emergency, all employees needed to get to the point of evacuation. If someone was absent, it was necessary to revise all the documents on the personnel movements, find the location of the employee at the moment of an emergency, and then track his probable (!) path to the evacuation point and only after all these steps to send a rescue team. If at the moment of an emergency the territory was occupied with several hundred people (and this is possible in a large open pit), it is easy to tell how much time was required to complete all necessary steps. Also, do not rule out the "human factor" – someone could forget to write his location down or write it improperly and so on. It made the rescuing process even more complicated.

Fortunately, technological progress is on the march, and, presently, many companies, at the exploration stage implement local positioning systems in real time (RTLS). Why have mining companies started to use RTLS systems, and what can these systems add to the safety and personnel management in your open pit?

In order to answer these questions, let’s consider the main safety problems mentioned above:

Personnel control

The name of the system speaks for itself. RTLS provides object movements control in an open pit in real time. The system manager always has the data about the location of all employees with an accuracy up to 1-2 meters. Their paths of movement, arrival and departure time, etc. In addition, the system provides localization of personnel in certain areas and notifies the system manager and the employee in case of violation of the authorized area.

Equipment control

A large number of various vehicles, assets and devices is involved into open pit functioning. Most of them are rather large. Local positioning system establishes not only personnel bet also equipment movements control. This helps to keep track of them, the time spent in certain areas, load handling, etc. RTLS system can automatically match the location of personnel and equipment and to prevent their collision.

Visitors (incl. visitors from other companies) control

The system provides automatic monitoring of the visitors’ location. Besides, it considers the time spent by them on each occupation. For example, if a vehicle is being maintained, the system will automatically take into account the time spent on it, instead of considering all the time spent inside the building. Moreover, the system helps to optimize expenses and get the exact time required for maintenance of  a certain equipment. In most cases, it is prohibited for guests to be in the mining area. With the help of RTLS it is enough to deliver tags to the visitors, establish and explain the rules. So, there is no use supervising them, the RTLS system will do it automatically, and in case of violations the system manager will be warned.

Compliance with safety requirements control

As a rule, there are many different regulations for open pits: for instance, where one can stay without a helmet, and where he can not; where the equipment should be stored; where people should stay during certain operations, etc. Often these regulations are violated or neglected by the workers that directly affects the overall safety and performance. Local positioning system provides real time monitoring and ensures the compliance of these rules. Any violation is immediately reported to a system manager and recorded. Consequently, the system ensures no impunity for those who violate the rules.

Evacuation control

The very process of evacuation can be controlled and monitored due to the use of the RealTrac system: the time spent, paths of motion, and, mainly, localizing those who did not manage to get to evacuation points. In case of an emergency, the system generates a message to a system manager that ensures auto reproduction of audio-visual alarm signal. Automatically generated signal in case of mandown or loss of consciousness delivered to a system manager will help to send a rescue team as soon as possible. Also, there is no need to supervise people gathered at the evacuation point in case of an emergency since the system does it automatically.

Voice communication

The RealTrac system also provides voice communication over a digital channel with an option of getting an access to external lines.

As a result, modern local positioning system provides you with a relevant information in real time. And it provides staff with voice communication and increases the overall security of an open cast mining.

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