Bat Booth 2.0 uses multiple daily temperature checks to help protect workers from viral infections and heat stress, while reducing the risk of dust diseases such as coal workers pneumoconiosis and silicosis.
The intelligent device has been raced into production by Melbourne manufacturer Mideco and Newcastle-based technology company Pulse Mining Systems in response to the coronavirus pandemic threatening lives and economies around the world.
“We realised time was of the essence in fighting this pandemic; it’s like going to war,” Mideco managing director Melton White said.
White, who has a background in mine-site maintenance, conceived the Bat Booth to minimise the health hazards of respirable dust particles on clothing and protective equipment while reducing heat stress among mining, quarrying and manufacturing employees.
The product was also designed to be cost-effective. Once the system is running, high-frequency monitoring of workers across multiple sites can be achieved without the extra labour and administrative cost burden of other frontline screening measures.
In the face of the coronavirus threat, the two partners ramped up their collaboration to combine technologies that were easy to use, easy to manage and offered a real boost to occupational health and safety (OHS) managers’ capability, according to Pulse managing director Ash Bosworth.
“We pivoted our development teams to work on this because it matters to people and industries all around the world. It may make the difference in some areas for mining and manufacturing to continue,” Bosworth said.
The process is streamlined for efficiency, taking only 15 seconds from the time an employee enters the booth and triggers an automatic recognition system and infra-red camera that logs temperature. Workers appreciate the cooling effect of the compressed-air de-dusting, with usage data showing they typically use the booth four times per shift.
In the event of a temperature anomaly, the digital unit sends an instant alert to the user and remote managers. Data also goes to individual employees’ health records and can be used to measure and compare the employer’s safety performance.
Bat Booth 2.0 comes as mining and energy worksites across Australia and around the world are adopting strict travel and safety measures, especially affecting fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers and mining communities where a coronavirus outbreak could easily wreak havoc.
Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt warned last week that curbs on the FIFO workforce, numbering more than 50,000 workers in Australia’s mining and energy sector, could become permanent.
“I think the way our workforce is distributed and located post-corona will be very different to the pre-corona environment,” he told The Australian Financial Review. “I think you will have a lot more residential workers in the future than we have had in the past.”
The prospect of more densely populated mining communities, however, has doctors concerned about already-stretched rural and remote health services being overwhelmed if a COVID-19 outbreak occurs.
Major mining companies are placing restrictions on inbound workers and using hand-held temperature checks to keep mine sites safe, investing heavily to maintain coal, iron ore and other mining activity as the key driver of the Australian economy.
By providing several daily automated checks that take up only seconds of a worker’s time, Bat Booth 2.0 is intended to meet the critical need for maximum vigilance and wrap-around safety systems in close mining environments.
Mideco is in discussions with industries in Australia and abroad where Bat Booth 2.0 can make a difference to OHS practice, workers’ health and data management, including in mining and energy, agriculture, food processing, glass manufacture, stone cutting and engineering.