Hugh Pine talks about the benefits of training simulators and how they are increasing safety due to improved vehicle control.
Highly sophisticated training simulators are being used by more and more mining companies around the world, including Australia, to improve machine operator safety and productivity. Whether above or below ground, there are constant hazards confronting operators on site, so safety procedures and training are a vital part of daily life in the mining industry.
This is why advanced high-fidelity training simulators are playing a vital role in training operators to be safe. Besides training and evaluating novice operators in the safe and proficient operation of heavy equipment, simulators provide a new recruit screening system and effective refresher training for experienced operators. They also ensure effective training in emergency situations not possible on the real mining equipment.
“Safety levels are enhanced by the fact that operators can be trained and scored on their reaction to emergencies such as an engine fire, brake failure or tyre blowout, which are obviously impossible to replicate safely on the real equipment,” executive vice president and director of Global Business Development at global training systems provider, ThoroughTec Simulation, Greg Lew said.
“Pilots train on simulators before their first flight and constantly throughout their careers. Mining equipment, like aircraft, is very expensive and needs to be operated safely to avoid injury and damage, so the operators should be trained on simulators.”
Simulators dramatically reduce the need to use the actual equipment for training purposes. When equipment has to be used for operator training purposes, accidents can easily occur at enormous cost.
According to ThoroughTec many of their clients are able to complete most of their practical operator training on the simulators while training new recruits. This translates to significant cost savings because the equipment is being used for fewer training tasks. Damage and wear-and-tear decreases as green operators are able to familiarise themselves with the controls of the machines and iron out their mistakes on the simulator instead of the real machine. This means less unscheduled maintenance and lower maintenance and training costs.
As the operator controls the heavy equipment, all aspects of operation are electronically monitored and digitally presented, including adherence to operating and safety procedures. Exercise results are stored on a database for after-action-review by the instructor and operator.
It’s extremely important that heavy equipment operators adhere to safety procedures, which have been put in place for their own safety and the safety of others. For example, sub-system warnings and failures such as brake or steering failure, engine fire, burst tyre and overloaded bucket, can be injected during the exercise to test the operator’s response.
One of the most simulated pieces of equipment in the industry is the haul truck. Many pits feature huge elevation changes so the haul trucks have to go up and down steep roads. Keeping up to 360 tonnes of metal under control when travelling downhill is a big task and things can go wrong, rapidly.
Reversing a haul truck next to a shovel so it can be loaded is a difficult procedure, especially if it’s a blindside load. Operators need to train for this and know how to do it safely. Simulators are a cost-effective way of achieving this.
An iron ore mine in South Africa, one of the largest in the world, was experiencing high collision rates between haul trucks and the overhead pantograph system – over 15 per month. Within six months of extensive use of simulator based training of their haul truck operators, this figure was reduced to less than one a month. An even greater reduction in costs due to the reduced incidence of runaway trucks was reported after the introduction of simulator based training.
Although based in Durban, far away from most of South Africa’s diverse mining industry, Hugh Pine is a journalist at Thoroughtec Simulation, with a keen interest in the industry and the technology surrounding it both locally and globally.
Thoroughtec Simulation’s CYBERMINE high fidelity simulator system is a completely self-contained system, requiring only a flat surface and external power to be operated. It is designed to train and evaluate operators on a range of different surface and underground mining equipment.
The team at ThoroughTec Simulation has been designing simulator based training systems for over twenty years. During this time the company has grown into one of the world’s leading training simulation organisations, supplying the mining, construction and military sectors.