March 29, 2019

NIOSH to Address Health, Safety Challenges of Automation in Mining

NIOSH seeks information to inform the prioritization of future agency research to address the expanding use of automation and related technologies in mining. According to NIOSH, companies are seeking to adopt automation technologies to help them decrease costs and increase efficiency. Some companies also say that these new technologies—which include automated mobile equipment, robotics, teleoperation, wireless communications and sensing systems, wearable sensors and computers, virtual and augmented reality, and data analytics—improve safety. NIOSH specifically requests input concerning gaps in knowledge regarding the health and safety implications of humans working with automated equipment. The agency intends to prepare for expanded use of automation technologies by proactively addressing worker health and safety challenges and leveraging new technologies to improve miners’ health and safety.

Through its request for information, NIOSH hopes to learn the extent to which and in what timeframe automation and associated technologies will be implemented in mining; existing health and safety concerns related to these technologies; and what sensor technology improvements are needed to ensure the safety of people working on or near automated equipment. The agency also seeks information about the application of existing methods of big data analytics to automated mining equipment or systems.

The public comment period is open until May 17, 2019. Further details are available in the Federal Register notice.