The Smart Helmet

   In the last few decades, accident prevention programs, increased safety regulations and improvements in equipment and vehicles have made mining a much safer profession. Better engineering and practices have reduced the amount of underground cave-ins, floods and accidents but the dangers haven’t been eliminated. It is why safety is a top priority at mine sites: mining is a physically dangerous job.

Besides floods and cave-ins, miners face other dangers, especially when they head underground. There is the risk of gas explosions, chemical leaks and electrocution. A miner’s health can suffer from exposure to dust, radon, welding fumes, mercury and even noise. Back injuries from falls or heavy labour are common among miners.

Miners are uniformly outfitted with reflective overalls, safety glasses, safety shoes, reflective vests and earplugs. All workers on the mine site are trained to be aware of and avoid dangers. Training and equipment that increase the odds of a miner ending their shift safely are a good investment.

Vandrico Inc., based in Vancouver, has developed a piece of equipment that can increase the odds that miners stay healthy. The Smart Helmet Clip is a small device about the size of a deck of cards that mounts under the brim of standard issue hard-hats. The 30.2 mm x 140.0 mm x 63.8 mm device weighs only 220 g (7.76 oz). The device was developed through a three-way partnership with Deloitte, Vandrico Solutions and Cortex Design. “We are proving the value of open collaboration to drive innovation in the mining sector,” says Gonzalo Tudela, Chief Executive Officer of Vandrico.

Though small, the Smart Helmet Clip has a myriad of functions Tudela says, “The device is as powerful as a Smartphone but has a unique design approach in that it allows for different sensor combinations that suit the needs of a particular job/mine.” It can detect the presence of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), and Methane (CH4). It can also measure temperature and humidity. The company states that the device’s unique modular design allows one to select which environmental sensors to install. “The range of real-time, responsive sensing capabilities provides the worker a complete safety assessment of their work environment at all times. We offer this flexible, customizable platform because every worker and
every job is different.”

As well, the Smart Helmet Clip comes with onboard GPS, accelerometer and gyro. This allows for the tracking of the movement or non movement in the event of an accident, of a miner and his location. This information is critical in an emergency and can save precious time when removing someone from an emergency situation.

The device also comes with a front facing digital camera that can be used to stream video for task analysis and remote support.

The Smart Helmet Clip is built for harsh mining environments. It features large, tactile buttons that are designed for easy, accurate operation, even with gloved hands. The buttons are backlit with durable, long-life LEDs that are easy to see and can quickly get a miner’s attention when deep underground.

A removable hub can function as a standalone communications module to facilitate additional communication. This means that the actual device can detach from the helmet and be used for medium fidelity information. It can be used to communicate in real time with surface, using WiFi and leaky feeder. It can work up to 40 degrees Celsius, allowing for deep mine use.

The device runs on Vandrico’s Connected Worker software platform, which allows for the realtime data to be used in a central monitoring station or underground with ruggedized tablets and workstations.

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