Barrick Gold: Combating Fatigue in the Workplace

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the impact of fatigue is seen not only in its effect on job performance of haul truck operators but also on the health of the operator and the productivity at the mine site. Combatting fatigue and making employees and supervisors aware of it is a focus across the industry.

At Barrick Gold’s Cortez mine in Nevada, operators are testing safe and innovative ways to help employees combat fatigue in the workplace. Recently, the mine completed two pilot projects — Predictive Safety and Smartcap — to test new fatigue monitoring and intervention technologies, involving haul truck drivers who worked on day and night shifts.

The first project, Predictive Safety involved two-minute tests on tablets conducted before and after shifts at the mine. During each shift, 20-25 participants filled out a sleep questionnaire and took an ‘alert monitoring’ test that calculated reaction time based on how quickly participants completed the questionnaire. The results were entered in an algorithm that calculated each employee’s fatigue level. There were three levels: guarded (low fatigue), significant or high.

In the second project, Smartcap used Bluetooth technology to connect haul truck systems to specialized headbands worn by operators. The headbands monitored the fatigue levels of 20-25 open pit operators per shift by taking Electroencephalography (EEG) readings. These headbands, which fit into a standard hard hat, work like an Echocardiogram (EKG), but they monitor electricity emitted from the forehead rather than the heart.

The EEG results appear on a monitor mounted inside the cab of the open pit haul trucks every two to three minutes. Drivers experiencing high levels of fatigue are notified by alerts from the system. If a driver receives three high-fatigue alerts without taking a break, the system alerts a supervisor who can then intervene and assess a driver’s fitness for duty.

The Cortez Mine identified fatigue as a key risk to worker safety and the pilot projects are a proactive way to address the issue. Cortez is now evaluating data from the projects and determining whether to proceed to a site-wide implementation. This would see the Smartcap system expanded to more equipment such as loaders and graders, and the use of the Predictive Safety testing tool in other divisions such as the Cortez Underground.