Newcrest Mining is looking to wearables and algorithms to help workers at its Telfer mine drink enough water after tests found up to one-third of all workers didn't start the day adequately hydrated.
The miner is running a competition via Unearthed with $10,000 in prizes on offer for solutions that help personnel on site either stay hydrated or keep track of their hydration levels.
Telfer is a fly-in fly-out (FIFO) gold and copper mine located about 1300 kilometres from Perth.
It typically deals with two types of workforce: one for the mine’s operation, and then another for “shutdown periods during which an additional 500 contractors arrive to carry out maintenance work” at the site.
“Outside temperatures often exceed 40°C with maximum temperatures in excess of 50°C,” the miner said.
“Working shifts of 12 hours, maintaining hydration is critical to personal safety. Dehydration can impact cognitive functions and decrease decision-making abilities and at later stages lead to serious health issues.”
Newcrest currently tests hydration levels using either self-administered, random or portable electronic urine testers.
These aren’t seen as particularly good solutions: self-tests and electronic tests require access to a toilet, which pulls people away from their work.
Additionally, some of the mandated and random test methods produce results that “can sometimes be open to interpretation”, the miner said.
Still the results a recent random test of about 150 shutdown workers produced some alarming results: three percent were “dehydrated and needed to be stood down from work or needed further medical intervention” and up to one-third were not adequately hydrated at the start of their shift.
That has the miner exploring more innovative options to the problem.
Through the competition it is hoping to uncover ways for workers to “self-monitor hydration levels”, with “no to low disruption to regular tasks”.
It also wants systems that give “a clear indication of hydrated or dehydrated without room for interpretation”, which would then produce data that could be aggregated for a better understanding of hydration for site safety purposes.
Newcrest does not specify exactly what a solution might look like, though its raises the prospect of ruggedised wearables supported by some sort of predictive capability.
It encouraged entrants to “recognise and address on-site conditions i.e. wearables must be comfortable for long durations, sweat and dust resistant”.
The competition runs through until May 28.