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Mining dad drives home road safety with innovation

After becoming a father to two daughters, Central Queensland miner Nick Dyer says coming home safely has a whole new meaning.

“Life has changed significantly for me since the arrival of our two little girls – actually my whole perspective on life and the reason I do things each day has changed,” he said.

“The actual meaning of coming home safely to your family has become very clear to me of late.

“Mine sites are dangerous on many levels so there are very few second chances when things go wrong. I’d like to be around to watch my girls grow up, so my own safety has become a priority as well.”

Nick has worked in the mining industry as a contract field maintenance diesel fitter for nine years, and the skills he has gained has helped him develop a life-saving system aimed at getting workers home to their families safe every night.

Safestop, designed primarily for surface mining operations, uses radar technology to detect oncoming vehicles at intersections.

“Upon detecting an approaching vehicle, LED lights attached to a sign are illuminated informing other road users of a potential hazard,” Nick said.

“Safestop can be installed in several configurations and customized to optimize its performance for every scenario. However, most importantly, it must be understood that Safestop is in NO way a traffic control device.

“It is a device that aids vehicle operators in making good judgment and the right decision to ultimately prevent vehicle interaction.”

Nick is no stranger to the danger of sharing roadways with heavy mining vehicles, and believes hazards on the roads are multiplied at night.

“From artificial lighting affecting your eyes’ ability to focus, to dust and fog, dirty windows, window reflections, unfamiliar circuit changes, vision obstructing bund walls, of course fatigue and the list of contributing hazards goes on,” he said.

“Night shift is a hazard in itself, almost a principle hazard, which is defined as a hazard that has the potential to cause multiple fatalities. Especially on night shift, and everyone else in the industry working night shift will concur with me on this, it can be difficult to identify approaching vehicles with right of way.

“Determining if the path is clear so a stop sign can be departed from safely is a life and death decision that depends entirely on the judgment of the operator.

“The harsh reality of the situation in open cut mining operations is that when a light vehicle and heavy vehicle collide it’s almost a certainty that the life of the light vehicle operator will be lost.

“When you depart an intersection to enter a live circuit you need to be completely certain that your path is clear. There are no second chances.

“For this reason I have always struggled with the concept that judgment is left entirely up to the vehicle operator, especially in an environment that ultimately hinders a workers’ ability to make good judgment.

“This is where Safestop comes in, the first traffic management engineering control the industry has seen.”

Nick said the system he developed is also able to eliminate another serious issue in the industry – signage ‘drive-throughs’, especially stop and give way signs.

“Anyone who’s worked at night time will have experienced a signage drive-through or at best have had to brake or steer aggressively to adhere with signage,” he said.

“If a stop sign is not identified and a live circuit is entered the dice is rolled again and its only chance and good luck that keeps the vehicle operator alive.

“Personally I have had numerous close shaves during my time in the industry. There hasn’t been a near-miss that has single handedly motivated me to develop Safestop and get it to where it is today.

“It’s more the fact that I recognized how dangerous mine traffic is, especially at night time, and that I believed that by using electronics technology there would be a way to make mine traffic safer for all.”

Nick and his co-developer, and good friend, John Phillips, have worked tirelessly to get Safestop out of the talks and into action.

“Fortunately, we have managed to overcome each hurdle and each hurdle cleared has been a step closer to producing a reliable and revolutionary product that we are proud to stand behind and back,” Nick said.

“For too long has unconventional traffic been controlled and managed with conventional signage.

“My goal is to provide a product with a stellar reputation as being reliable, dependable and useful. Safestop is a product that people can really benefit from and is one that truly makes the workplace a safer one for all.

“Everyday people working in the mining industry aren’t necessarily there because they want to be. They are there because that is what they have to do to get by in our society and to provide for themselves and their family.

“To provide a product that can assist in getting everyone home safely everyday would be very rewarding in itself.”

Nick extended his condolences to the family and friends of Ingrid Forshaw, whose life was tragically taken in 2013 at the Ravensworth coal mine after her light vehicle collided with a haul truck.

“On reading the recently released official report, I believe that Safestop could have eliminated many of the factors that contributed to the horrific incident that claimed her life.”

HOW IT WORKS:

Situation 1:

You approach a live mining circuit intersection in your light vehicle. Its 2am in the middle of winter, you’re tired, your windscreen is dirty, you’re fatigued and there is a go-line lighting plant in front of you stifling your vision.

You look left and right a couple of times to check for approaching rear dump trucks with right of way but it’s hard to be certain there is nothing coming. Even if it were daytime it would still be difficult to be certain there are no approaching trucks as you can barely see around the large bund wall. You decide to take a chance and cross the intersection leaving your fate to chance…

Here’s where Safestop comes in – at this same intersection you are trying to negotiate, Safestop – Intelligent Illuminated Signage, has been installed.

What this means is this stop sign has been fitted with two radars and LED lights have been attached to each corner of the stop sign. The left radar illuminates the four LEDs on the left half of the sign when it detects an approaching vehicle in its field of view, correspondingly, the right radar also illuminates the four LEDs on the right half of the sign when it detects an approaching vehicle in its field of view.

As you approach the stop sign your attention is immediately drawn to the four LEDs on the left side of the stop sign that are flashing. This indicates that there is a vehicle with right of way approaching from the left, consequently, you remain stationary at the stop sign and wait for the vehicle to pass and the sign lights to stop flashing.

Situation 2:

You are driving down a road in your light vehicle. Its 4pm and the conditions are hot, dry and dusty. You’re tired, your windscreen is dusty, you’re fatigued and the sun is in your eyes hindering your vision. You don’t realise but you have just driven straight past a stop sign onto a live circuit and into the path of a loaded haul truck.

Here’s where Safestop comes in. Fortunately the blind stop sign has been fitted out with a Safestop sign approach configuration. In this configuration a stop sign is fitted out with a single radar set up to detect vehicles approaching the stop sign. When the radar detects an approaching vehicle it illuminates all eight of the LEDs attached to the corners of the stop sign.

As you are driving unaware of the approaching stop sign, the radar detects you and the LED lights begin flashing at you. Immediately you realise you are approaching a stop sign and begin to slow down.

For more information visit www.safestop.com.au. 

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