NIOSH Presents Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovations Awards

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mining Program, in conjunction with the Industrial Minerals Association–North America (IMA-NA), the National Mining Association (NMA), and the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), recognized four organizations in their respective industry sectors, some for developing new safety tools and systems, and others for instituting new health protocols to keep their workforce safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The entire mining industry is fortunate to have many innovators that step up and create solutions to meet both new and existing challenges,” said NIOSH Associate Director for Mining Jessica Kogel, PhD.

The four award categories are stone, sand and gravel; industrial minerals; coal; and metal.

In the stone, sand and gravel category, Suwannee American Cement won for keeping its workforce safe and operational during the pandemic by using multiple innovations. Hygiene innovations include a touchless timeclock, touchless temperature stations, and conveniently located stations for hand washing and PPE.

Employee contact is reduced through smaller work groups and directional workflows in common areas. Innovative procedures have been added for PPE usage requirements, special disinfecting technologies, and response protocols to COVID-positive situations. These innovations and other steps are communicated through text messaging, an e-newsletter, virtual meetings, and large video displays. Additionally, mandatory training has been moved online.

Genesis Alkali LLC won the industrial minerals award for implementing numerous innovative approaches to keep its workforce safe and operational throughout the pandemic. The company enhanced its IT infrastructure to allow office staff to work from home, and web-enabled tablets have allowed inspections to be shared live.

Other innovations in work scheduling and use of virtual meetings prevent crowding in the mine and in offices, and non-essential visitors are kept offsite entirely. Filtering masks are both provided and mandated when workers are within 6 ft. of others. Handwashing and social distancing are encouraged through signage and stickers, while enhanced cleaning protocols are followed throughout the facility.

In the coal category, the Matrix Design Group won the award for using artificial intelligence (AI) to prevent equipment collisions. In the metal category, Freeport-McMoRan Inc. won for its Haul Truck Scorecard.

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