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Advances In Proximity Detection Technologies For Surface Mining Equipment - Introduction
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    The lack of visibility near earthmoving equipment resulted in six fatalities in U.S. surface mining operations during 2003. These accidents were the result of either a piece of equipment striking another vehicle or worker, or the equipment traveling over the edge of an embankment. Figure 1 is an example of a recent accident that resulted in serious injuries to one worker and fatal injuries to two others when a van parked in front of a haul truck. Two fatalities occurred in separate incidents when front-end loaders struck workers. Another two workers were killed when their equipment backed over the edge of a highwall or dump point [1]. There is clearly a need to provide better information to equipment operators regarding their surroundings. [ ] Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Spokane Research Laboratory, are working to reduce these accidents by developing systems that sense obstacles and changes in terrain near the equipment and provide this information to the operator. Many off-the-shelf proximity warning systems that were developed for automobiles, light trucks, and recreational vehicles were evaluated on off-highway dump trucks [2]. Many limitations were found with existing systems, including frequent false alarms, limited detection range, a lack of specific information on an obstacle (e.g., location, identity), difficulties in finding suitable mounting locations, and an inability to withstand the environment. These limitations have necessitated the development of new systems designed specifically for large, off-highway, earthmoving equipment. New off-the-shelf systems available for mining equipment include radar and tag-based detection systems. Prototype systems now being developed include a proximity warning system based on the Global Positioning System (GPS) and a computer-assisted stereovision system. Development of these new systems was accomplished by working with manufacturers to modify existing systems to meet the needs of surface mining and through cooperative research with organizations to develop completely new solutions. A typical proximity warning system consists of a sensor or antenna mounted on the equipment that detects the presence of obstacles and an alarm interface in the cab of the equipment. Some systems, as described in more detail below, also require that other vehicles and personnel on the ground be outfitted with electronic tags that transmit an I m here signal back to the system (e.g., radio signal detection systems or GPS). Many types of proximity warning systems are on the market, but they are not all discussed in this paper. APPROACH In past work, engineers at NIOSH evaluated several off-the-shelf proximity warning technologies in order to verify their effectiveness on off-highway dump trucks [2]. Dump trucks were chosen because of the number and severity of accidents involving this type of equipment and because extensive blind areas around these trucks are typical. This experience allowed engineers to limit the number of systems chosen for long-term tests at mine sites to those systems showing

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