Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X
WEBBER-YOUNGMAN, R.C.W. and VAN WYK, E.A.. Incident reconstruction simulations-potential impact on the prevention of future mine incidents. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2013, vol.113, n.6. ISSN 2411-9717.
The mining industry in South Africa faces real challenges with regard to the reduction of safety-related incidents. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the need for alternative interventions in addition to other safety improvement strategies already employed on mines. It furthermore supports an existing paradigm: incident investigations. An investigation into fatalities in the South African mining industry shows that although great progress has been achieved through the reduction in fatalities in all sectors of the industry over the last few years, more can and should be done to achieve status of 'zero harm'. Fatalities and lost time injuries on mines result not only in large financial losses, but also in disruptions of mining operations in general through Section 54 stoppages to resolve the situation. The approach of the paper is therefore not to try and prove whether there is high fatality rate and/or lost time injuries, but in what way incident reconstruction simulations (IRS) can have an impact in the future prevention of such incidents. The challenge therefore lies in the utilization of pro-active systems that would show employees the possible outcomes of being exposed to certain hazards. In real life, these incidents cannot be re-enacted and in most cases we can only learn through the previous mistakes of others. A virtual reality (VR) education and training system will enable employees to be 'exposed' to different hazards in a safe environment, and simulation, in a 'forgiving' environment, of the possible consequences of unsafe acts. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), unsafe acts and unsafe conditions are indirect causes of safety-related incidents, but there are also direct causes; for example, unplanned release of energy and/or hazardous material, and basic causes, for example, management safety policies, personal factors, and environmental factors. The administrative workload associated with any incident investigation places a large burden on the investigation team, and in most cases other employees are informed through vague administrative processes what the 'real cause' for the incident/accident was. New preventative strategies are often put in place without showing the employees what the real causes of the incident/accident were. This can be mitigated through the use of interactive VR simulations/animations of the hazards that they are exposed to and how to deal with them. If VR interventions are not used as proposed by this paper, the real causes and consequences of almost all fatalities and lost time injuries may never be fully understood. This paper also emphasizes what potential impact IRS could have on the prevention of future mine incidents as part and parcel of a pro-active risk prevention strategy. The intention is therefore not to replace any other risk prevention strategies, but to visually enhance the reality of the incident.
Keywords : virtual reality; risk management; incident reconstruction simulations,; interactive safety training; usability context analysis; mine safety.