Using existing technology to enhance staff safety

Monday, 01 November, 2021

Using existing technology to enhance staff safety

“Always on” communication is the bedrock of a mission critical network, with users permanently connected on a highly resilient network. The radios used on site and in the field will be tough, proven devices, capable of providing clear, loud audio to users. This is crucial to staff safety and no more so when working in a mine or similarly dangerous environment.

Mining organisations can now add dynamic control features to their existing radio solution, enabling greater staff safety and improved situational awareness. AutoMate is an intelligent application which automates radio activity and workflow based on a user’s location. It works on existing TETRA networks, with no upgrade to infrastructure required.

Once triggered, the app executes routine and safety critical tasks to deliver fast results, reducing the risk of user error and safeguarding operational teams, who are then free to focus on their critical tasks.

Large mining need a comprehensive communications solution, including voice but also including data functionality.

Doug Bowden, Business Development Manager at Sepura, has extensive experience of developing solutions for mining companies. He outlines one of the key advantages of using a TETRA system over a standard cellular solution: “Because single site networks are owned and controlled by user organisations, additional functions can be added to the platform based around operational requirements. These can encompass more data services and applications than are usually considered part of the critical communications capability.”

Using existing geofences as triggers, network managers can use these or other location based devices to automate radio actions, ensuring smooth seamless operations.

Examples of automated actions might be:

  • Switch user’s talkgroup, for example when entering a blast zone, ensuring the team leader is aware of another person in the area
  • Switch to direct mode, for example when entering an underground store facility with no TETRA signal, ensuring communication is maintained
  • Vehicle speed warning on site, causing an emergency alert to be sent to the site controller, improving site safety
  • Safety warning sent to users in a specific location, warning to ensure doors are correctly sealed, maintaining efficient, safe operations
  • Unlocking of secure gates or doorways due to the presence of a nearby authorised radio, improving site efficiency and maintaining security

AutoMate radio screen showing the radio confirming a change to talkgroup.

The Sepura team highlights that customers were asking them for solutions to enhance their situational awareness across site. “It is vital for control rooms to understand the location and status of their operational teams,” Bowden says. “By utilising automated alerts from within the application and sent over an existing TETRA network, situational awareness across the site is massively improved, without the need to invest in further communication infrastructure.”

Alerts and notifications are fully configurable to match and enhance an organisation’s workflows. A flexible set of triggers and radio actions can support operations, and automations can be linked and combined according to logic or priority.

Further, radios can be readily updated with new configurations to match changes in workflows or operational environment and automations can be overridden or suspended by radio users in exceptional, emergency circumstances.

AutoMate is available to users of Sepura SC Series TETRA radios as a software upgrade to their existing solutions.

Top image caption: Sepura SC20 TETRA radio at an iron ore mine.

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