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MINING SAFETY: Â“Intelligent Whistler” to Boost Safety Underground


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Safety warning specialist Booyco Electronics has introduced a unique and innovative “Intelligent Whistler” to boost safety underground — a signaling device that operates between a vehicle and a guard, incorporating an operator “whistle” worn around the guard’s neck.

Anton Lourens, managing director of Booyco Electronics, says the technology was developed quite recently at the request of a customer and, based on its beyond-expectation effectiveness, is now being introduced to the mining industry at large.

“The system is compatible with all makes of controllers currently in use in South African mines,” Lourens says. “It’s programmable to each mine’s specific requirements, in terms of preferred language or pictoral commands, and can be applied in a variety of applications underground, well beyond that of a Loco Signalling Device (LSD) function. Because it builds on existing technology, the Intelligent Whistler is also cost effective, readily acceptable to users and requires little additional training.”

The Underground Safety Whistle Works with Radio Frequency

The system is modular in design and harnesses radio frequency (RF) technology as a function communication medium, allowing loco drivers and guards to communicate clearly and effectively with each other underground. These instructions are transferred in a radio data format that is displayed both at the fixed loco controller unit and at the portable “whistle” unit.

“When the driver needs to perform a specific task, such as moving forward, reversing, stopping and making an emergency stop, he informs the guard of his intention by simply pressing a button with pre-defined functions, customised to the particular requirements of that mine,” Lourens says. “Conversely, the guard communicates with the driver by blowing the whistle with a predetermined number of blasts.

“At the start of each shift, for example, a guard uses his whistle and “pair” — a connection to the relevant LSD controller unit on the loco assigned to him — to create a closed loop system that eliminates external interference. The nature of the LCD system makes for a very user-friendly scenario and includes an LCD display and buzzer on both units. There is full data confirmation and acknowledgement of each instruction between the operator and the guard underground.”

Recorded Data Now Available for Underground Safety

The controller unit has I/Os that can be used to support a Fail to Safe philosophy and as an additional indication in the event of emergency stop instructions. The system operates in the 2.4 GHz frequency, with typical communication pairing ranges of up to 60 metres. The underground whistle unit is operated by a rechargeable battery with up to 12 hours of power.

“A significant benefit of this system is that it provides access to data recorded in the event of an accident,” says Lourens.

“Booyco Electronics has a focused approach to providing innovative underground mine safety related products which add value and increase productivity within the southern African mining sector. Our primary objective is to provide a single source supply for reliable and accurate warning, locating and monitoring systems capable of operating in uniquely African conditions.”

The companyÂ’s current product range includes a CWS multi-functional warning and locating device for underground and surface use, the Remcon asset (vehicle) locating system, a centralised blasting system and a portfolio of environmental monitoring and control systems.

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