Fatigue is an ever-present but often “hidden” hazard on many mine sites. Studies have shown that more than 40 percent of employees who work non-daytime hours report nodding off during their shift. In one Caterpillar study involving some 5,000 units installed, operators were shown to have traveled over 4,400 miles while asleep at the wheels of their machines.
Long working hours, low lighting, repetitive duties, shift schedules and solitary work environments are all factors that can cause mobile equipment operators to become drowsy or distracted. Fatigued operators can lose up to 30 percent of their ability to safely react to changes in the environment. Obviously, that can result in serious accidents involving machines with tremendous destructive power. In fact, fatigue is estimated to be a factor in 60-70 percent of on-site accidents.
This perilous scenario for employees also carries a significant financial risk for the mining operation. There are the direct costs of accidents, plus fatigued operators have consistently been shown to use more fuel than alert drivers.
For all of these reasons, Caterpillar offers a number of technologies as part of a comprehensive Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS). The use of such systems is accelerating quickly in a number of fields as companies gain awareness of the dangers fatigue poses. Government agencies are even mandating FRMS solutions in certain industries.
On the technology front, the Cat® Detect Driver Safety System (DSS) helps mine sites track the number of fatigue events occurring among mobile equipment operators. By applying those numbers with a broader FRMS program, one mine in Africa was able to save $2.4M in fatigue-related accident costs.
It’s important to remember that technologies like Cat Detect are just one part of the total solution. Most employees have never been trained in how to deal with fatigue, manage their sleep schedule or adapt to the inherent social and physical challenges that come with shift work. As a result, they tend to develop bad habits that have been conservatively projected to cost companies as much as $10,000 per employee, per year, over their traditional daytime counterparts—in higher healthcare costs, reduced performance and increased incidents.
Caterpillar and your Cat dealer can help you implement a practical FRMS solution, including monitoring and analysis capabilities along with a range of on-site and off-site behavior and cultural recommendations.
By combining technology, people, processes and systems, a complete FRMS solution helps you predict, measure and mitigate fatigue events while providing operators with the tools and knowledge to improve their alertness and effectiveness on the job.