Shining a Light on Cap Lamps in Underground Mining
Cap lamps have long-been an integral piece of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), lighting the way for underground miners since the early 20th century.
As technology advances, their functionality has grown with it, with some exciting new features improving safety and efficiencies.
At MST Global, we’ve been developing integrated safety solutions for over 30 years.
We launched our very first Integrated Communications Cap Lamp (ICCL) model in 2005 that combined communication and PPE equipment using a lithium-ion battery; a fraction of the weight of the older lead-acid powered cap lamps.
Within the sealed casing was a PED Text Receiver tracking tag and two-way radio (pictured above).
In 2014, an updated ICCL model, with proximity detection integrations, made headlines, winning the ‘Best in Category’ (Commercial & Industrial) in the Australian Good Design Awards.
And seven years on, just like that, we’re ready to launch two new models that provide further benefits to our mining customers, and of course the end-user.
Before we shine a light on our latest models, let’s take a look at where cap lamp technology began. It’s an interesting journey.
History of Cap Lamps in Mining
Like many modern mining technologies found in mines today, the trusty cap lamps’ inception was born out of the necessity to improve safety for workers underground.
There have been many types of lamps used in underground mining over the last 200 years; covered oil lamps, safety lamps, spout oil wick lamps, candles and holders, carbide lamps, and electric lamps.
But the most significant advancement in the technology was not until the early 1900s, following a string of tragic coal mine disasters that sounded alarms for the global industry.
According to the National Museum of American History, in 1909, 20 coal mine disasters were recorded and in 1910, 25 mine disasters (metal/nonmetal and coal) were recorded.
It was these spiralling disasters that prompted mine engineer John T. Ryan Sr. and George H. Deike, with the help of Thomas Edison, to create a dependable and safe electric cap lamp.
“Electricity had been available in homes for years, but the application of electric lighting in mines was a harder proposition due to the extensive wiring costs,” it stated.
Edison’s solution was a rechargeable battery pack that was encased in a self-locking steel case worn on the miner’s belt. A flexible cord travelled to the cap lamp, which would last for about 12 hours before needing to be recharged.
Since this time, cap lamps have become a necessity for anyone going underground, attaching to the top of a miner’s helmet and providing hands-free illumination.
In fact, they’ve been proven time and time again to improve safety, visibility and ergonomics.
According to peer-reviewed journal article ‘The effect of cap lamp lighting on postural control and stability’, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) accident data for 2005–2009 indicated slips, trips and falls (STFs) were the second leading accident class (18.1%, n = 2,374) of nonfatal lost-time injuries at underground mining work locations.
“Research, specific to the lighting of underground metal/nonmetal mines, determined that increasing the illuminance could improve visual performance for detection and recognition of trip hazards,” it stated.
“Lighting can influence the performance of people in the industrial workplace by way of ten mechanisms that include visual performance, visual comfort, visual ambience, interpersonal relationships, job satisfaction, and problem solving.
“Poor lighting and reduced visual feedback decreases detection of STF hazards and has also been shown to decrease postural stability, increasing one’s risks for falls.”
So, there’s a little history on cap lamps and their importance. Now, for the part you’ve been waiting for…
Introducing MST’s Underground Cap Lamps
Our MST Global team is excited to launch two new cap lamp models to the market that are going to be a game-changer for our underground hard rock and coal customers, as well as our friends in the tunnelling industry.
“The first cap lamp is new functionality for our existing ICCL, which brings an extra level of safety that our customers have been asking for by incorporating the ability to respond to messages sent through our emergency through-the-earth (TTE) PED messaging system and a new SOS functionality so that miners can send emergency messages for assistance,” MST Global General Manager Product Management and Marketing Mark Palmer said.
“The second product is our TRAK orb cordless cap lamp which has a built in MST Wi-Fi tracking tag. This is for the hard rock market and adds the essential functionality of tracking into a piece of equipment every miner needs to wear.”
The reason for these two new additions, was delivering what our customers had been asking for; extra safety, useability, and working their assets as effectively as they could.
“Our customers were asking us to increase the functionality of our emergency solutions and to make them usable in the real world,” Mr Palmer said.
“There was a real necessity to know people have received a warning message.
“If you can imagine sending this kind of message in the ordinary world and not knowing If somebody has received it, it doesn’t have the same kind of impact and usefulness.”
Our customers also wanted to work their assets harder to deliver a cost-effective and commercially viable solution.
“Between these two new cap lamps we’ve delivered this,” Mr Palmer said.
“In addition to that, we were able to integrate this tracking function for both our lamps into our new HELIX software.
“Especially in the case of the ICCL, we can actually manage these messages and the responses to these messages through the HELIX package.”
If you’re wondering what cap lamp is best suited to your underground space, our ICCL model is the obvious choice for mines with the harshest environments, predominately coal mines.
“The reason for that is its certified for working in explosive atmospheres,” Mr Palmer said.
“However, the unit can still be used by hard rock customers because it offers enhanced features such as the ability to add extra functionalities.
“For example our emergency TTE communications system PED; it can be used for proximity detection and general tracking; and even integrate things like tail lighting so that miners can be seen from behind as well.
“If you have a desire to integrate as much functionality into your cap lamp as you possibly can, then the ICCL is for you.”
Key features of the new ICCL include:
- RFID Wi-Fi electronic tag
- PED text paging
- PED message acknowledgement via Wi-Fi
- SOS panic/assist messaging (man-down button)
- Proximity detection
- Airstream helmet adaptation
- Tail lighting
- Cord integrated “flash” unit
- I.S. certified versions
- Utilises lithium-ion battery technology
- Battery life of more than 24 hours
- High-intensity personal LED lighting
It is also lightweight, modular, easy to install, and easy to wear.
“With more and more PPE (such as large SCSR’s) to carry, reducing the weight and bulk of a miner’s cap lamp and communication equipment offers significant WH&S advantages,” Mr Palmer said.
Our brand-new model, the TRAK orb cordless cap lamp is suitable for our hard rock underground customers.
“If you want to enhance your tracking to know where your people are, the TRAK orb provides you with a cost-effective and convenient solution in a package that every miner needs,” Mr Palmer said.
“Nobody goes underground without a cap lamp so it’s an easy and convenient way of making sure people are safe with essential equipment they always have with them and the key element of tracking.”
Another essential benefit is its one less piece of equipment miners have to carry so ergonomically it makes their life easier, and it requires very little user knowledge so it can be seamlessly integrated.
“It also liberates space for other essential safety equipment that could be carried by a miner,” Mr Palmer said.
Key features of the TRAK orb include:
- Cordless model
- RFID Wi-Fi tracking tag
- Main and auxiliary lamps
- Lightweight and intuitive to use
- Rugged, tamper-proof casing
- Battery status indicator, clock and configurable ID number
- Long-lasting LED light offers main (high) beam and auxiliary (low/dipped) beam with navigation between them via a button press.
- Lithium-ion battery provides up to 15 hours of working life before recharge is required.