The quarry industry is a major focus for the “smart” Bat Booth 2.0, giving employers new powers to guard against dust diseases such as silicosis, prevent heat stress and stop on-site viral transmission in industrial settings.
The intelligent device, the result of a partnership between Melbourne manufacturer Mideco and Newcastle-based technology company Pulse Mining Systems, has been raced into production in response to the COVID-19 pandemic threatening lives and industries around the world.
“We realised time was of the essence in fighting this pandemic; it’s like going to war,” Melton White, managing director of Mideco, said.
White, who has a background in quarry-site maintenance, had long considered on-site de-contamination of workers’ clothing and PPE and multiple temperature checks per shift as a missing piece in quarry and mine workplace safety.
“If you spend any time on a worksite where employees are exposed to heat and dust, you see the first thing they take off is their respiratory PPE,” he said. The act of removing dusty PPE not only created a second risk for workers on site; remnant respirable dust also posed a risk to co-workers and family. He also thought industry needed a product to counter the rising frequency of viral pandemics.
As the coronavirus threat advanced, Mideco and Pulse ramped up their collaboration to add the automated temperature checks along with a smart interface to send alerts to the user and remote management in the event of a temperature anomaly.
The challenge was to combine technologies that were easy to use, easy to manage and offered a real boost to OHS managers’ capability, Pulse managing director Ash Bosworth said.
“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.
Bat Booth 2.0 was designed to be highly cost-effective. Once the system is running, high-frequency monitoring of workers across multiple sites can be achieved without the extra staff and administrative costs of other frontline screening measures such as hand-held temperature guns.
The streamlined process takes only 15 seconds from the time an employee enters the booth and triggers an automatic recognition system and infra-red camera. Workers appreciate the cooling effect of the compressed-air de-dusting, with usage data showing they typically use the booth four times per shift, White said.
The data can be used to measure and compare OHS performance as well as promoting employees’ health.
Bat Booth 1.0 has been well adopted in the quarrying industry, reflecting the fact that every process, from crushing to sifting and conveying, releases silica. Bat Booth 2.0 brings a new level of protection to employees, contractors and the community from risks associated with elevated temperature – be it bad decision-making by workers affected by heat, or the spread of a virus such as COVID-19.
High levels of human traffic in and around quarry sites raise the importance of stopping viral infections. Employees normally live locally, while maintenance contractors move from site to site; the Mideco maintenance team visits three locations per day. Truck drivers move constantly between quarries and delivery sites.
By providing automated treatments that take 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 quarrying and 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 mining, energy and quarrying, agriculture, food processing, glass manufacture, stone cutting and engineering.