The article below featured in Australian Mining Safe to Work. It has been republished with their permission
Written by Vanessa Zhou
A bus was carrying a full load of fruit pickers from around the world when they were alerted of a safety emergency.
The alarm was thanks to an audio alert system installed on the bus that could communicate and give a precise verbal command to its passengers in various languages.
The rare technology not only captured their attention but also uncovered the problem and guided them to safety.
Vehicle operators often struggle to decipher a variety of warnings, lights and symbols that appear on their dashboard in the event of an emergency.
These few seconds of confusion can be critical to the safety of passengers, and be intimidating to an operator that is trying to identify what the alerts mean.
With the audio alert system from Hummingbird Electronics, which has been part of REDARC since 2015, the operator is clearly warned of a dangerous situation.
The system is capable of transferring buzzes, alarms and lights – whether they are positive or negative – into a voice output, making the operator aware of their situation.
Warnings can also include instructions on how to rectify or respond to the issue quickly. Should there be a fire on a vehicle, the warning can tell the operator to evacuate.
The verbal alerts may also point to low coolant levels, high engine temperature, open doors, an open tailgate, apply handbrake, apply seatbelt or roll over danger.
Vehicle operators can even choose to have the voice of English comedian John Cleese or his Australian counterpart Dame Edna if they’re tempted.
More importantly however, operators can choose to continue their operation with care or stop the journey if they are in a dangerous situation.
“In the occupational health and safety (OH&S) side of things, there are often near-misses such as a crane being overextended and an excavator working on too extreme an angle,” REDARC Group national mining and industrial business development manager Scott Montgomery says.
“Without any form of warning for the operator, these situations can exceed levels of machine tolerances, and that’s when incidents happen.”
The importance of these devices is demonstrated by the latest top-line vehicles coming out with an audio system as a factory option, verbally reminding a driver to fasten their seatbelt, or informing them of high engine temperature.
“A lot of the time during these situations, you can only see a warning light coming on the dashboard of the vehicle indicating that your engine temperature is too high,” he says.
“Now you’ve got a verbal command saying, ‘Engine temperature too high, pull over.’”
While operator safety is the key benefit of the technology, it can also save mining companies from incurring extra costs.
A crane toppling over or an excavator working on too extreme an angle, and then falling on its side, will incur mining operators a steep repair cost and lost productivity with equipment downtime.
Now the audio alert system gives operators a safety luxury by doubling up its technology capability with a Hummingbird inclinometer, thanks to its compatibility with a range of Hummingbird products.
The inclinometer produces a visible pitch-and-roll readout for operators and features configurable warning and alarm levels.
Hummingbird’s Dual Axis Inclinometer – Elite – features advanced data logging capabilities, recording events with time, date and GPS location.
This data can be used to analyse potentially dangerous conditions, or in the event of an incident, assists in evaluating the event.
Montgomery says an inclinometer should be fitted on any machine that works on an angle or has a high centre of gravity. Small and large machinery in mine sites are particularly at risk, he adds.
Larger machine operators can also choose to evaluate the angle of the road using a ball bank, which measures and allows for easy interpretation of roll angles up to 20 degrees.
The screen will update roll measurement 10 times a second, and produce a visual warning when the roll exceeds a configured angle, prompting the ball bank to emit a sound all at once.
The operator can also change the symbol displayed in the inclinometer according to the type of vehicle it’s installed in, such as an excavator, bulldozer and water truck, making the display relevant to the operation.
“Mine operators are generally pretty sensitive about safety. It’s interesting because when we first introduce this product to a mining client, they take an interest,” Montgomery says.
“They absolutely don’t need to wait for a big incident to happen before they take actions.”