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Miners Are Dying: Industry Rejects Blind Spot Technology

Since the 1990s, the mining industry has fought regulations that would require the use of blind spot technology to prevent accidents. Blind spots are common around large vehicles and throughout mining sites. It is a known hazard that causes a significant number of personal injuries and fatalities each year. Even so, mining companies argue that cameras and proximity detection systems would do little to alleviate the risk.

A Known Problem

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health thoroughly investigated the problem of blind spots on mining sites in 2006. Their research has established that there is a 35-foot blind spot in front of many large vehicles including bulldozers, graders, loaders, and other equipment common to mining operations. These studies also showed that the view to the side and rear of many of these vehicles was completely obscured.

Similarly, the Mining Safety and Health Administration first examined the problem in 1998. They did so because between 1987 and 1996, 120 miners died, and a further 1,377 suffered serious injuries; many of which were because of blind spots on mining vehicles. Nationwide, more than 500 deaths since 2000 have occurred at both underground and surface mines. Dozens of these fatalities were caused when workers found themselves caught within a blind spot.

A Proven Solution

Blind spot cameras and proximity detection sensors are standard features on many passenger vehicles. Since first introduced in the 1950s, the technology has evolved considerably. Modern systems have a proven track record of reliability and utility. It is estimated that in both 2003 and 2018 that a combination of backup cameras, proximity sensors, and collision-warning systems could have prevented 23 fatalities. 

Even so, in 2011 and 2015 the National Mining Association, Nevada Mining Association, and others within the industry opposed rule changes that would require mining companies to install these systems on bulldozers, underground continuous miners, dump trucks, graders, and other equipment. These entities argued that blind spot technology isn’t sufficiently advanced to provide reliable protection against accidents.

Regulators are not requiring mining companies to install blind spot technology to save lives. The industry has been left to voluntarily install these devices and few companies are doing so. It is a failure to act that is costing workers their lives and families their livelihoods.  

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