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Safety and health in mines research advisory board

Annual Review 2003



The Application and Effectiveness of Virtual Reality as a Training Aid

MRSL, UoN, Camborne School of Mines and IMC are the UK partners in ECSC Project PR 134. MRSL's contribution has concentrated on the generic assessment of these techniques against various training requirements and scenarios, together with appraising development and training implementation issues.

Currently, special training galleries are constructed to train rescue workers to recognise and practice dealing with hazards encountered during emergency situations. The fixed nature of these training galleries limits the range of scenarios that can be addressed. Virtual reality (VR) techniques could permit the creation, within a virtual world, of a far wider range of scenarios and situations likely to be encountered by rescue workers and hence could significantly enhance their current training. The aims of this project have been to investigate the effectiveness and benefits that can be derived from using VR as a training medium within the coal mining industry. The objectives of the research include:

- To derive a reliable and practical measures to enable the overall effectiveness of both conventional safety training and VR based approaches to be assessed;

- To identify and develop training applications of VR with respect to equipment simulation;

- To identify and develop training applications of VR in order to improve the hazard awareness and risk perception of mine workers;

- To identify and develop training applications of VR in order to simulate emergency scenarios and responses.

- To evaluate the effectiveness of the VR training applications developed during the research and compare the results with those obtained via traditional approaches, in order to demonstrate the advantages that can be derived by the industry.

Extending the Utility of Underground Data Transmission Networks

The MRSL contribution to ECSC Project PR 133 is a programme on 'Safety and Emergency Applications of Telemetry', with five areas of research:

  1. Sensing and telemetry with inaccessible locations. Remote powering and feasible methods to transmit data from sealed mine areas are being examined, possibly using existing mine cables and conductors as the transmission medium or borehole access. The use of sondes located in the waste to permit spontaneous combustion events to be rapidly detected and located is a further aspect.
  2. Improving the integrity and availability of data transmission systems. To increase the survivability of data transmission systems after fires and other major incidents, practical installation measures will be investigated, including 'hardened' cables, redundancy/diversity in transmission paths and the use of power network data communications. Rapid deployment systems will also be investigated.
  3. High integrity transmission between mobile plant and personnel. Pedestrians and drivers of smaller vehicles can be placed at high risk in the vicinity of mobile plant and large haulage vehicles. Data transmission techniques are being investigated which increase mutual awareness and an effective means of communicating an emergency stop instruction.
  4. Wireless data network communications to provide location information. Recent developments in low power wireless network communication technologies offer the possibility of automatic recognition and data exchange set-up between a local network of nodes. The use of wireless data communications technologies is being investigated in terms of its ability to provide local data transmission and zonal location information. The focus is on mesh network techniques based on 'Zigbee' technology.
  5. Data exchange standards developments - Inter-operability and standardised data exchange between systems is currently limited. A component of the work is examining data exchange standards developments and unified application interfaces to permit systems to cooperatively share information and data more cheaply and effectively.

Enhancing the performance of mine communication and warning systems

MRSL's contribution to RFCS Project CR03003 is concerned with achieving substantial improvements in the performance of speech communication systems and auditory alarm and warning systems across a wide range of underground and surface mining applications. This will involve:

  1. Improving communication system speech intelligibility - The general principles and developments in speech intelligibility measurement and adaptive filtering will be reviewed. Using acoustic measurement data in mines, the ambient noise and interference in a representative cross-section of coal winning, development heading and coal clearance and transport areas will be assessed. The results of these investigations will be used to define suitable anti-noise controller hardware and algorithm/processing requirements. Various algorithms will be investigated to separate speech from the ambient noise. The feasibility of incorporating new technology into existing telephones situated in acoustically noisy environments will be examined. Low cost alternatives based on waveform compression techniques will also be investigated.
  2. Improving the effectiveness of mine alarms and alerts - A review will be made of problems associated with alarms and alerts. This will include a review of mobile plant and high-power machinery incidents. Industry practices both within the and elsewhere will be reviewed. Research considerations will include the psychology and perception of audible alarms in the presence of varying masking influences. The objective here is to find alarm amplitudes and tonal structures that can be reliably discriminated by the majority of the workforce. A second area of mine alert investigation will be the influence of spectral composition and tonal energy density on sound localisation capability. The potential to reduce risks of accidents involving pedestrians in problematic noise zones will be investigated.
  3. Power network communication components and application - The availability of a pre-installed power distribution network throughout virtually all mines offers a significant opportunity in terms of wide coverage with potentially low communication infrastructure costs. Such systems would be robust, and offer a long distance speech and data communication capability, with the signals 'piggy-backing' on the mine power and other conductors. German and Spanish partners propose to research and develop core elements of local and mine-wide power network communications systems. MRSL's work will examine how associated local communications requirements can be met, certain aspects of propagation, together with appraising potential applications, including emergency deployment of systems.
Updated 2009-05-21