Vehicle collisions and rollaways are a worrying cause of workplace injuries or fatalities in Australia. Australian Mining speaks with Hummingbird about how its 16-channel audio alert system is helping to prevent vehicle accidents on mine sites.
Vehicle collisions accounted for 31 per cent of worker fatalities in 2018, according to data from Safe Work Australia.
Following an engine fire on a bus on Sydney Harbour Bridge, which caused confusion due to unlabelled alarms going off that did not indicate what the emergency was, Hummingbird set out to create a new alarm.
Hummingbird’s vision was to design an audio alert system that not only warned drivers when something was going wrong, but also advised what the issue was, with the use of voice commands rather than a generic alarm.
As Hummingbird mining and industrial sales manager Scott Montgomery explains, the removal of this confusion helps vehicle operators react quickly to potential emergencies.
“Modern mining machines have complicated dashboards with a lot of bells, buzzers and LED lights – this is a lot to concentrate on before they even start driving,” Montgomery tells Australian Mining.
“It is difficult to know which buzzer is being activated and where. If there is a voice command telling the driver exactly what has gone wrong and what to do next, rather than a buzzer, they have more time to react and take corrective action.”
With 16 channels, users can input 16 different commands into Hummingbird’s audio alert system, such as basic temperature warnings, fasten seatbelt alarms or apply handbrake notifications, up to alarms that help prevent potential disasters such as engine fires.
As well as the ability to set several different alarms, what makes Hummingbird’s audio alert system unique is that the messages sent by these alarms can be arranged in the order of priority.
“Hummingbird’s audio alert system is both preventative and reactive,” Montgomery explains.
“You can program the system with different noises or commands so the operator knows a message is coming, for non-urgent alarms such as applying the handbrake before exiting the vehicle.
“You can prioritise the messages as per their urgency, with different volumes and speeds to deliver urgent messages, such as a warning alert for engine fires in an emergency or an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) CANbus engine fault signal so the driver has a few moments to pull the machine over and exit the machine safely.”
Mining companies can load custom instructions relevant to their operations and vehicle, which can even be stored in different languages, making Hummingbird’s audio alert system versatile for global operations.
These instructions are saved to an SD card, which is simply slotted into the audio alert system slot, making it user friendly and easier to program.
One of the most common applications on Australian mine sites for the Hummingbird audio alert system is accidents involving the rear tippers being left in an upright position on dump trucks.
If left elevated, this can cause dangerous accidents such as the tipper colliding into a workshop roof, bridges or even powerlines, putting the equipment, driver and other workers at risk.
“Using our tilt switch on the audio alert system, Hummingbird has helped to prevent a number of accidents on mine sites where rear tippers have been left elevated,” Montgomery says.
“The tilt alert gives the driver an alert that they are driving off with the rear tipper up. There have been hundreds of accidents on Australian mine sites where drivers have driven into a workshop with the tipper up and crashed it into the workshop, so this is a very common application.”
Another popular alert Montgomery frequently sees installed on Hummingbird’s audio alert system is speed monitoring and warnings. This alert is also beneficial for mining operations, with trucks and other vehicles frequently travelling along slopes, often on unsealed roads which are a skid hazard.
“We have a number of these audio alert systems on transport trucks, which gives the driver a verbal warning that overspeed has been detected in the event of the truck exceeding the set speed limit,” Montgomery explains.
“They are also used as a tilt device on cranes, which gives the operator the alerts they need to take corrective action to avoid an over tilt.”
While Hummingbird’s audio alert system is used simply as an alarm system at present, the company is working to develop the technology so it can also log data, making it useful for tracking incident causes and weighing up risks within operations.
“Whether the device is warning you to complete your pre-start check routine when you first start a shift, to fasten your seatbelt or that there is a high engine temperature and you need to pull over, Hummingbird’s audio alert system helps operators with preventative maintenance, safety and improving reactions to emergency events, avoiding machine damage, operator injury and reducing fatalities,” Montgomery concludes.
This feature also appears in the December edition of Australian Mining.