Round-the-clock sounds fall silent

Hummingbird proves that being serious about safety doesn’t mean making noise about it. The silent horn replaces the blaring noise of mining vehicles.

The Hunter Valley region in New South Wales is not only known for its concentration of mining projects. It also has a vast spread of lush wineries, animal farms and townships.

This is the backdrop for mining activities that operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day all-year round to produce coal.

It has also become the area that has experienced the largest uptake of Hummingbird’s Silent Horn, with Queensland’s Bowen Basin following closely behind.

As urban populations and mine sites move closer to each other and further away from established settlements, the pressure on mining companies to become good neighbours and reduce the problems commonly associated with noise pollution increases.

A Hunter Valley mine has enabled Hummingbird to develop a simple way to install a reliable silent horn system for trucks, diggers and loaders.

Loud horn blasts no longer need to be a way of communication among machine operators.

With a simple press of a button, truck drivers receive a visual and audio alert within their cabin. They are able to identify which machine is contacting them – all without any external noise.

The silent horn system uses wireless GPS and radio frequency (RF) technologies to allow vehicles that are only paired with each other, or located within pre-set perimeters, to receive the horn signals.

The silent horn system can connect up to 20 satellites at one time, making its positioning very accurate.

“One part of the silent horn system goes into the excavator, and the other goes into the haul trucks. It automatically detects the closest truck by GPS location so it only communicates with trucks that are in proximity,” Hummingbird mining and industrial sales manager Scott Montgomery tells Safe to Work.

“Operators receive both audio and visual signals inside the cabin. This gives you an indication on the screen, and a buzzer that would go off.

“Haul trucks can drive away when it’s alright to go, but it’ll only go off in the first driver’s cabin.”

This reduces operator distraction when they also have to respond to reverse alarms and collision avoidance signals. Operators can grow more sensitive to other alarms, creating safer work sites.

“We have enabled mining operators to continue with their night time activities, in particular. It allows them to work day and night with less restriction,” Montgomery says.

“We see mine sites expanding, and their extensions are coming closer to the mine camps, not just the city or residential areas.

“When that happens, they are also disturbing their shift workers. Big horns affect everybody, not just the mine site. So we’ve got a system that counters that issue.”

Hummingbird’s silent horn helps to ensure that mining operators comply with the state’s environmental regulations.

By planning to keep their noise level under certain decibels, a mining company can show state authorities that they’re taking measures to reduce noise pollution prior to mining commencement.

“A typical mine site would have one to four excavators and an additional 10 to 40 trucks. With the silent horn system, you’ll have loads of equipment not blaring horns at each other,” Montgomery says.

Hummingbird has improved the unit’s durability to harsh mining environments since it was introduced five years ago.

In fact, the silent horn incorporates fewer mechanical components than other similar systems. It was already a ‘bulletproof system’ and not many changes were required.

This contrasts with air horns or electric air horns that can be much more prone to damage due to their exposure to water or rocks, making them expensive to replace.

“The silent horn is also very easy to install and configure. Its features help enhance positive communication between digger machines and trucks,” Montgomery says.

As if that’s not enough, operators can view incline roll and speed on the silent horn’s display, improving the stability awareness of workers.

This article also appears in the Sep-Oct edition of Safe to Work.

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