Traditionally, a lamp room was defined as a room or building at the surface of a mine for charging, servicing, and issuing all cap, hand, and flame safety lamps. The lamp room was also known as a lamp cabin or a lamp station. But now, gone are the days of flame safety lamps. And gone are the days where a lamp room was used solely for storage and maintenance of miners’ lamps.
David Douglas, divisional manager for power solution at Willard Batteries makes a strong case for a lamp room to double up as a health and safety control center if the right systems are in place. Every miner starts and ends his day in a lamp room. “By putting stringent procedures in place in the lamp room, as opposed to at the entrance of each shaft alone, you can create a far more efficient and effective system,” Douglas explains. In the modern era the lamp room has evolved into a control center for verification and safety procedures, creating an ideal base for controlling and monitoring personnel and safety equipment.
But in order to be truly effective and maximize safety and efficiency, two crucial elements need to be in place:
Lamp rooms are generally supervised by technical trained employees who do not necessarily have the required skills to manage systems or people as effectively as is required. Typically what often happens is that faulty equipment or unauthorized staff may find their way down the shaft due to a weak link in the management system. A large volume of equipment and staff pass through the shaft and well regulated management systems are paramount to an efficient control system.
Lamp room systems can be configured to perform a variety of checks that are critical to safety of operations and workers by integrating digital applications.
Douglas further explains that efficient systems require a combination of innovative software and hardware. Willard Batteries make use of Bytes Technology to supply the needed specialized software. The system ensures safety identifying, validating, granting access, and recording electronically all employees that leave the lamp room. “Using a combination of radio-frequency identification tags in the lamp batteries, palm scanners, identity cards, or digital name capturing, the system ensures that each miner is positively identified before granting access to the shaft through a turnstile.” The system also checks if employees have the requisite safety equipment with them subjected to functional testing and in good working order before allowing access to the underground environment.
Mining companies are becoming aware that outsourcing aspects of health and safety are a more cost effective and safer option. One such service provider that is leaving a mark in the industry is Profitek’s Minelert. Profitek’s Minelert makes use of Hirschmann industrial wireless technology to create the required Ethernet network infrastructure and software for its managed lamp room solutions. They make use of retrofit lamp caps fitted out with tracking tags, which are individually assigned to miners to minimize time delays throughout the access control system. Turnstiles are programmed to identify workers and check that lamps, rescue packs and active tags are in proper working order. Should any of these malfunction or be missing, the turnstile refuses entry and directs the worker back to the lamp room.
In the days where flame safety lamps were issued from the lamp room it was regarded as a weak link and a high risk factor. Now the lamp room has become one of the safety hubs in the mine’s complex network of operations. But only under competent management, and established on a sound and a streamlined operating system.