Putting a cap on fatigue in mining
May 31, 2013

We all get tired at work, but avoiding fatigue is especially important for maintaining a safe workplace in the mining industry. That’s why world class miners at one of Australia’s largest gold and copper mines are using a new technology to help track and manage fatigue. 

“[Mining is] a very macho industry. A sign of admission to something is looked upon as a sign of weakness. You don’t want to tell someone you’re tired because you’re stronger, you’re faster, you can work longer,” says Ganesh Pillai, Occupational Health Advisor at Newcrest Mining’s Cadia Valley Operations in Central West NSW.

“But that sort of thing can lead to errors, it can lead to incidents, it can lead to injuries. It affects families, it affects more than just the people in the mine site,” says Ganesh.

To avoid health and safety issues that can come as a result of fatigue, the miners have been using SmartCaps. They look like regular caps, but the caps’ lining is fitted with electronics, called electroencephalogram sensors, to measure alertness on a scale of 2 to 4. This way, miners are able to monitor tiredness in a discreet way.


It’s important because not everyone at a mine site has the same schedule; like any workplace, the time miners take to get to and from work can vary, meaning the levels of fatigue can vary too.


But the SmartCap tracks tiredness at an individual level, providing quantitative data that has been used to tailor individual travel plans and other related factors to successfully reduce fatigue across the Cadia Valley Operations mine site.


Plus, the readings from the SmartCap are transmitted to a display device, so workers can see their own fatigue ratings in real-time, bringing attention to fatigue they may not have been aware of themselves.


“There’ll be times when you think you’ve had a good sleep, you think you’re relaxed and you’re refreshed, but obviously our brain is telling us something a little bit different to that,” says Jason Ingham, Health & Safety Superintendent. 

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