What can mining industry possibly learn from Sports? Well, it’s certainly not about how to play football, or any other sports for that matter. It’s about a specific technology that more and more Sports organisations are embracing, not only to enhance the performance of their players, but also to look after their health and well-being. The lesson that mining industry can take from Sports is how to use the new technology to address one of the biggest industry concerns today – the health and safety of the mining employees.
A typical day in a modern coach’s life involves a lot more than gut-wrenching, nausea inducing training sessions. Although they are still part of it, significant portion of the modern day coaching involves fixating over charts and numbers on a computer screen. Charts and numbers that show not only the physical performance of the players such as speed, strength and agility, but also their risk of injury due to intensity of collisions and fatigue. Technologies that make this possible are the wearable wireless sensors that capture player’s physiological activities and software tools that “mine” data captured from these devices to produce countless performance benchmarks and health matrices that can help coaches and players develop “winning strategies”.
In the mining industry this technology can be used to monitor the health and safety of miners involved in both on surface and sub-surface mining operations. An impact-sensing device attached to a helmet can measure the significance of a collision or a fall on the long-term health risks to the head. Sensors attached to various parts of the body can monitor anything from muscle fatigue to dehydration to weight distribution. These measurements can help identify health risks such as muscle, joints and cardiovascular disorders that long-term exposure to heavy lifting or repetitive strains can cause.
The wearable sensor technology is not only limited to measuring physiological activities of the wearer. The technology also provides ability to measure environmental conditions such as temperature, noise, vibration and radiation which could be important in tracking health problems associated with Whole Body Vibration (WBV), UV exposure and Thermal-stress – a common health risk faced by miners due to hot and humid working environments.
More advanced sensors that monitor chemical constituent of the environment as well as the wearer’s body fluids allow a range of chemical health hazards such as chemical burns, respiratory problems and poisoning to be identified quickly.
If you are thinking how to convince the miners to wear all these gizmos in an environment that doesn’t resemble, even remotely, a football ground or a tennis court, the solution is far closer than you think. The advances being made in developing next generation fabrics and integrating the sensor technology directly into clothing will allow a range of smart industrial clothing to be developed. Who wouldn’t want to look good on the next generation smart uniforms that measure your heart rate, respiratory activity and arterial oxygen saturation to keep you safe?
The next step in evolution of safer working environment in mining industry can come from investments in wearable technologies and data “mining” capabilities, similar to how Sports is using these to stay on top of their game.