Mining industry benefits from better health and safety thanks to IoT

Natalie Bannerman
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A report from satellite-provider Inmarsat finds that 44% of the mining industry believes IoT will improve staff health and safety

The health and safety of staff in the mining industry is one of the key benefits for the sector after the adoption on internet of things (IoT) services, says research by Inmarsat.

The report entitled The Future of IoT in Enterprise – 2017 found that IoT will play an increasing large role in helping mining companies meet their obligations to their staff, governments, the environment and shareholders.

Joe Carr, director of mining at Inmarsat Enterprise, said: “The mining sector has worked over many years towards an industry-wide commitment of Zero Harm. Mines are a uniquely specialised, hazardous environment and as such miners are highly focused on employee safety. IoT solutions can play a significant role by remotely monitoring conditions and gathering data to anticipate and react to potential safety threats.” 

The research, which was carried out by market research company Vanson Bourne, interviewed respondents from 100 global mining companies. The data found that 40% of organisations plan on deploying IoT solutions in the next 18 months, 44% said they expect IoT to drive improvements to the health and safety of their staff.  In addition, 43% ranked health and safety as the primary objective of their IoT strategy, just behind just behind monitoring environmental changes which scored 47% and improving cost effectiveness at 44%.

There are also benefits of wearable technology as an alternative solution to health and safety. For example wearable sensors can monitor and analyse a wide number of scenarios like sensing for dangerous gases or impact, alerting management if staff tracking is outside of acceptable parameters or monitoring worker locations to ensure they don’t enter hazardous areas.

“Automation and connected wearable technology represent two of the single best opportunities to address the dangers of the mining environment. IoT technology provides the digital nerve system for a network of automated devices and sensors that adjust to environmental conditions in real-time, meaning that equipment can react to potentially hazardous physical changes onsite rapidly without the need for human intervention, removing staff from potentially dangerous environments,” added Carr.

In addition to better coverage in the event or extreme weather or emergencies, satellite communications enable connectivity in deep, open pit mines or even underground, by using repeaters. Inmarsat’s very own L-band services offer a 99.9% uptime in even the most hostile environments.

Additional results from the report include findings that nearly half of enterprise businesses lack the technical skills needed for successful IoT project deployments and that lack of high speed connectivity is the biggest issue facing companies in the energy sector as they attempt to deploy IoT, which were released earlier this month. 

Carr concluded: “Inmarsat is committed to helping the industry achieve Zero Harm: our founding principle was one of safety and lifesaving, and this heritage is present in everything we do today. Using IoT to reduce fatalities and improve health and safety is only going to be possible if the connectivity provided by satellite technologies to move and analyse data is in place. The big challenge for mines is that they are often situated in some of the most remote parts of the world, away from cellular and terrestrial networks in an ever-changing environment.”