Three Australian companies are teaming up to trial a revolutionary safety technology to prevent massive machinery from entering restricted areas at mine sites and improve work safety.
Downer, Australia’s leading provider of integrated services, along with Coates Hire and SITECH WA, Western Australia’s premier mining and construction technology solutions provider, have partnered to trial an Australia-first technology that promises to deliver enhanced safety for construction and mine sites.
Called the 3D Avoidance Zone System it will be used to elevate safety at construction and mine sites through the deployment of a unique, invisible ‘digital barrier’ which can shut down at-risk equipment the instant the barrier is touched.
Already deployed successfully on New Zealand train systems by KiwiRail, the technology promises to dramatically reduce accidents and increase safety in construction areas which are being undertaken within tight areas or nearby critical infrastructure.
“The system will be used as further mitigation against potential to ‘foul’ the rail danger zone, over and above to those physical barriers already in place,” said Cormac Brady, General Manager, Western Australia Infrastructure Projects, Downer.
“Following a successful trial of the 3D Avoidance Zone System, Downer will be able to apply it to our wider rail and civil projects, thus ensuring safety is at the heart of everything we do.”
The technology will be trialled for the first time in Australia, with Western Australia chosen as the ideal location for the trial to take place. The location of the trial will not be disclosed.
“Construction sites near rail lines and other critical infrastructure are both necessary and fraught with hazards, as excavators increasingly work within tight areas and nearby fast-moving transport,” said James Naylor, Executive General Manager, West, Coates Hire.
“Thankfully technology is emerging to ensure these work spaces are safer than ever before, with Western Australia the first Australian state to benefit through this trial.
“This offering is the next stage in our Internet of Things (IoT) strategy. Once completed, Coates Hire customers will benefit from enhanced safety, productivity and monitoring capabilities.”
So how does this innovative technology work? An excavator’s position is provided by SITECH WA’s next generation Trimble Machine Control System, Earthworks.
Utilising dual Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology, the position of the whole of the machine is passed to the Trimble Marine Construction Software (TMC) which compares the machine’s position with the exclusion zone.
The TMC evaluates the current position of the machine against a pre-defined three-dimensional model of the restricted area.
If any part of the excavator ‘touches’ the invisible barrier, TMC sends a signal to the machine to stop by disabling all operator inputs, ensuring the operator is no longer able to continue on their current path of movement.
This barrier can be set by site managers, but once the barrier is set there is no need to update the barrier, as the GPS system is always aware of the location of the machine, even if it moves beyond its original location.
“Many ‘2D’ height and slew-limiting systems exist on the market today, but they aren’t nearly as effective and can be prone to more human error,” said Brady.
“The operator sets the limits manually by putting the machine up to the limit – this increases risk as these ‘2D’ systems are relative. Once the tracks of the excavator move the system needs resetting.
“With the SITECH WA’s 3D Avoidance Zone System the restricted area is absolute, and the machine position is always known.”
The technology works on a “Traffic Light” system. A Green alert advises workers and managers that the excavator is all clear to proceed operation; an Amber alert advises the worker and site manager that the excavator is approaching the Avoidance Zone, typically usually 0.5m as defined within the TMC software; and a Red alert means the excavator has entered the Avoidance Zone and triggers the machine interlock which overrides the machine’s operation and halts it immediately.
“SITECH WA leverages technology in all facets of the construction and mining sectors to improve safety, productivity and efficiency.
“Applying this technology to Coates Hire’s equipment helps keep workers and the general public safe along with protecting critical infrastructure is of paramount importance to what we do day in, day out,” said George Harris, Sales Manager, SITECH WA.
“This technology can be used in so many different applications on many different machine types. We are excited to partner with both Downer and Coates in this project.”