Executing Our Strategy
that Helps Keep
Caterpillar is known for applying technology to machines and job sites in ways that improve customer efficiency and productivity. An equally important goal is using technology to see, manage and mitigate safety risks to people in and around our machines. These technologies vary in complexity, beginning with ergonomic improvements inside equipment cabs such as more intuitive controls, easy-to-read displays, and noise and vibration suppression systems that reduce fatigue.
They also include the Cat® Detect suite of safety-focused innovations. Among these are the the Driver Safety System (DSS), a fatigue detection technology that uses eye- and head-tracking cameras that sense when a fatigue or distraction event occurs, even for a moment. An event alerts the operator immediately with an audio alarm and seat vibration inside the cab. Experts at Caterpillar’s 24-hour monitoring center are also notified of the event and provide reports and recommendations to customers for how to prevent potentially dangerous fatigue. A mine site in Australia using DSS determined that multiple operators were nodding off every day, traveling an average of 20 yards while sleeping in each instance. Implementing the system allowed them to reduce fatigue events by 94% in 90 days.
Detect technologies also include the Cat® Smartband, which works much like commercially available health trackers to detect a wearer’s sleep and wakefulness periods. Caterpillar uses data collected by smartbands to generate fatigue reports, which we share with customers to help them understand how the alertness, and therefore the safety, of their workforce fluctuates over time.
Even when operators are fully alert, limited visibility of other people and equipment on job sites can present hazards. MineStar™ Detect Proximity Awareness helps by tracking machines, site infrastructure and other mobile equipment and allows operators to view their locations on an in-cab display. Operators are notified when they enter restricted areas or exceed specified speed limits. The display also shows when two or more machines’ projected paths of travel intersect to warn of a potential collision. Similarly, MineStar™ Detect Object Detection combines radar and camera systems to warn operators about hazards within the immediate vicinity of machines. The solution automatically detects and alerts operators to potential hazards in front, behind and within the turning radius on each side of the machine. It also highlights specific views to show operators where potential hazards are located.
Customers have reported seeing immediate and lasting improvement in safe operating behaviors after implementing Detect Proximity Awareness. One customer experienced an 82% reduction in critical proximity incidents after enabling the system’s audible alert at its copper mine in Arizona. The same mine also reported a 95% reduction in speeding incidents.
New frontiers for safety
Beyond these technologies, which help provide awareness and reduction of hazards, breakthroughs in automation and autonomous technology have the potential to transform the risk profile of mining activities altogether. When an operator is removed from the cab of a machine, they are often placed in a role such as an office setting where they maneuver a machine via remote control. Not only does this reduce the physical strain caused by long hours in a cab, but operators also avoid the risk of drowsiness or distraction while behind the wheel.
The power of autonomous equipment to revolutionize safety performance has already been demonstrated in mining applications. To date, Caterpillar has zero lost-time injuries associated with autonomous solutions. The technology is in much earlier stages in other segments that Caterpillar serves but could offer similar benefits. As this technology matures, we will continue to invest in safety-enhancing technologies across the spectrum to help customers better protect their most important asset — their people.