Australian company uses big data to prevent mining accidents

Australian company uses big data to prevent mining accidents

Photo: Secretaria de Comunicaciones from Chile

A Western Australia-based company is showing that the integration of big data in a mining or construction project might help reduce accidents. At least, that’s the goal of a new tech initiative, boosted by Justin Strharsky and his firm Synaptor.

The company is using incident logs and other reports generated on large mining and construction sites and analysing the stats. Then, the system can issue early warnings regarding risky behaviour or potential mishaps that may lead to injured workers or massive losses, the Canberra Times reports.

With occupational illness and work-related injuries costing Australia $60.6 billion only in 2008-09, this project could be exactly what the industry needs to improve its safety numbers. Thanks to its ability to capture and manipulate live data, Synapor can produce reports of potential hazards and help the companies avoid incidents.

Photo: Bäras

The company studies these reports and plots the data in real time, creating a complete interactive risk map that can be used to predict the probability of an injury and generate an alert. Justin Strharsky says that:

One of the things we think is really key to preventing accidents is having the right information at the right time. And part of the problem in industry now is that it is always at the wrong time. They are always responding to last month’s data.

According to Synaptor’s representative, the company was recently studying one site that generates more than 40,000 observations about hazards and employee behaviour each month. But the accuracy and efficiency of the system can only improve as more data – such as shift length, swing length and training records – is added. Information from external sources, such as weather forecasts, can also help.

Safety science has been doing the same thing for the past 60 years and has plateaued in its effectiveness.

The real game changer is when you can get ahead of the game, stop being reactionary and start using prediction or at least understanding changing probabilities at about risk to best direct your interventions.

One of the early participants in the project is the Canadian engineering and construction consulting company Hatch, which has already vouched for Synaptor’s work.