New International Standard to reduce mining accidents

There’s no question that mining has been made safer over the years, but mines are still one of the most hazardous places to work.

The causes can be numerous, from explosive dust and toxic gases to collapse of mine shafts, and the consequences severe, with thousands of fatalities each year.
ISO 19434 Mining – Classification of mine accidents

ISO 19434:2017 establishes a classification of mine accidents by their origin or causes, by the type of accident, and by their results or consequences. The latter includes only the accidents resulting into consequences on people, not equipment or machinery.

When an incident does occur in a mine, it can be hard to understand precisely what’s happened. Because many factors are at play, a wide range of accidents can occur. A key step in preventing these accidents is to classify them by type and by cause, and that’s where ISO 19434 comes in.

With the entire industry working to further improve the safety of their operations, there are clear advantages of a unified system to understand the main types of accidents.

Moving ahead with ISO 45001 for Safety and Health at work

Latest estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO) show that more than 6 300 people die each day (that’s over 2.3 million a year) as a result of work-related activities, and in total over 300 million accidents occur on the job annually.

The burden to employers and employees alike is immense, resulting in losses to the wider economy from early retirements, staff absence and rising insurance premiums.

The ILO’s awareness-raising campaign, held annually on 28 April, is intended to focus international attention on the magnitude of the problem and on how promoting and creating a safety and health culture can help reduce the number of work-related deaths and injuries.

How ISO 45001 can help

This new voluntary standard currently under development will help organizations around the world improve their health and safety performance by creating a secure work environment where injuries and illness are prevented and lives are saved.

ISO 45001, Occupational health and safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use, will provide the requirements for implementing a management system and framework that reduces the risk of harm and ill health to employees.

The standard is being developed by a committee of occupational health and safety experts and will follow in the footsteps of ISO’s other management systems approaches, such as ISO 14001 (environment) and ISO 9001 (quality). It will take into account other International Standards in this area including OHSAS 18001, the International Labour Organization’s ILO-OSH Guidelines, various national standards and the ILO’s international labour standards and conventions.


Who is it for?

ISO 45001 is intended for use by any organization, regardless of its size or the nature of its work, and can be integrated into other health and safety programmes such as worker wellness and well-being.


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Getting real about autonomous cars

Among my most interesting jobs is being a digital fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. There are often interesting developments happening there on the topics of artificial intelligence (AI), digitization, and digital platforms. That was certainly the case on March 8, when I attended the MIT Disruption Timeline Conference on AI and Machine Learning. There was interesting content on a variety of topics, but a primary focus was on when specific AI capabilities might become generally available. One particular technology addressed was autonomous vehicles. The key question was when 50 percent of vehicles on U.S. roads would be fully autonomous.

One alumnus and former MIT faculty member (also a former professor at Olin College, Babson’s sister school in engineering) who spoke and participated on a panel was Gill Pratt, now head of the Toyota Research Institute. The panel also included John Leonard and Tomaso Poggio, MIT faculty who have worked on this issue from the perspectives of mechanical engineering and brain research, respectively. If that weren’t enough, Manuela Veloso, head of the Machine Learning department at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and a robotics expert, came over from Pittsburgh to add to the panel with her insights. The panel was moderated by MIT director, Erik Brynjolfsson.

View video of the panel at the end of this article.

The key question was when 50 percent of vehicles on U.S. roads would be fully autonomous.

Overhyped or On the Way?

Of course, these experts are as excited as anyone about the potential for autonomous vehicles, but they are also relatively conservative about when the 50 percent standard might be reached. If you listen only to the Silicon Valley Industrial Complex, you might think they are just around the corner. But Pratt wouldn’t give a specific prediction, Leonard said that autonomous vehicles are over-hyped, and Poggio flatly predicted it would be 20 years before fully autonomous vehicles are on the road in large numbers.
Why so long? Leonard illustrated the problem with some video footage about trying to make an “unprotected left turn” into traffic on a snowy day in his Boston suburb. There’s a long line of cars that he wants to turn left into, and who’s going to let him in? And would a machine vision system be able to distinguish oncoming vehicles and lane markings in the snow? Not anytime soon, he believes.

Poggio, who is also on the board of directors of the Israeli machine vision company Mobileye, focused on the problem of identifying pedestrians. He noted that Mobileye has been able to double its ability to successfully identify pedestrians every year for the past 20 years, but the technology still wasn’t good enough.

Even more alarming, however, the improvement is beginning to plateau. He and the other panelists noted that the problem with autonomous vehicles isn’t the vehicle itself, but rather, predicting the behavior of other motorists and pedestrians.

Safety First

Pratt from Toyota was similarly conservative in his views about full autonomy, but his research center has some worthwhile alternative goals. He pointed out, for example, that although less than 1 percent of adult deaths in the U.S. are from auto accidents, 35 percent of teenage deaths are. So Toyota is trying to develop a vehicle with a “guardian” mode to protect teens (and other bad drivers, presumably) from making lethal driving mistakes. The company is also working on a “chauffeur” mode for older drivers who need continuous help — particularly important in Japan, with its rapidly aging population.


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