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Monitoring device for early warning signs of operator fatigue in open cut mines

Mabbott, Nicholas (2005) Monitoring device for early warning signs of operator fatigue in open cut mines. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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An investigation into technologies to detect impaired performance due to driver fatigue was undertaken. From this, a new forced-choice stimulus-reaction device was developed specifically to detect driver impairment in operators of haul trucks in open cut mines. The device was developed in conjunction with personnel from the mining industry to suit the harsh conditions of the mining environment. The technology was trialled in three open cut mines and in a driving simulator at Murdoch University in Western Australia. Data were collected on the performance of drivers and analysed to validate the technology. A significant positive correlation was found between measures of reduced operator reaction performance and measures of eye closure. It was found that the device detected few false alarms and missed few bouts of tiredness as indicated by eye closures. It is suggested that the device would be a useful tool to assist with the detection of driver fatigue in open cut mining environments.

The forced-choice reaction-monitoring device was used to assess the performance of drivers in a gold mine in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. The fly-in-fly-out haul truck drivers worked 14 consecutive 12-hour night shifts, had a day off, then worked 13 consecutive 12-hour day shifts. A total of more than 3,500 hours of real-time objective performance data were collected and analysed. The main findings were that the objective performance data showed patterns of low performance that did not fit some of the performance data that would be expected from examination of past literature. Many findings are discussed in light of these anomalies. Another important finding is that the subject's background and sleep pathology is a possible predictor for poor performance on the forced-choice reaction task.

The system was also used to measure the performance of drivers with rising blood alcohol levels in a driving simulator. Subjects drank vodka with a mixer while driving for two hours starting at both 20:00 hrs and 22:00 hrs, with a week in between the two trials. The fatigue monitor detected reaction times slower than 3 SD of baseline performance at low levels of BAC. Performance at 22:00 hrs was marginally more impaired than performance at 20:00 hrs. Drivers at low BAC levels tended to compensate easier on the reaction task at 20:00 hrs compared to at 22:00 hrs. The ARRB fatigue monitor shows good capacity to detect poor performance due to low and medium measures of BAC.

The research undertaken within this thesis has provided data that challenges contemporary research that generally suggests that time on task is one of the largest influences of fatigue at work. It appears that both circadian influences and individual lifestyle habits will have an equal or greater impact on fatigue risk at work.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology
Supervisor(s): Hartley, Laurence
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