Tag Archives: safety

X-rays for gold

China and Australia are the world’s two largest producers of gold. So, it’s fitting that a device combining Australian and Chinese research, and capabilities in high-tech manufacturing, is set to shake up the industry.

Ore processors need to know how much gold is in their raw material to get the most out of it. The current industry standard for testing ore is the fire assay, an elaborate and time-consuming process that requires temperatures over 1000 degrees and toxic chemicals such as lead. It also takes at least 8 hours to complete.

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How deep is your sleep?

Reading brain activity for better anaesthesia

More than 40 million people have major surgery in China each year. For every one of them the nature of consciousness is a very practical concern. Too low a dose of anaesthetic could see you wake up during the operation. Too high a dose could have long term health consequences.

Currently, the best monitoring devices can only monitor a suite of secondary indicators of consciousness. A Guangdong company has partnered with the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) with the aim of making anaesthesia easier and safer. They’re creating an intelligent device to directly measure the depth of unconsciousness and adjust the anaesthetic dose in real time.

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Making mining safer

In Western Australia’s Pilbara iron ore mines, a fleet of robot trucks are moving more than a billion tonnes of dirt and rock. The giant trucks carry 350 tonnes in every load. They’ve been developed over the past decade in partnership with Komatsu.

“Rio Tinto and Japan’s Komatsu came together to produce not just the robots but a technology that is immensely useful to Rio Tinto.

Putting those things together has produced a fantastic result,” says Tetsuji Ohashi, the CEO of Komatsu.

“Mining in the future is all about moving lots and lots of material more efficiently,” says Michael Gollschewski, the MD of Rio Tinto’s Pilbara mines.

“Today we’ve got controllers sitting in the operation centre in Perth, overseeing 72 autonomous trucks 1500 km away in the Pilbara across three different sites. It’s amazing,” he says. 

Making motorcycle clothing safer

Most motorcycle clothing is not as protective as you might think. But from next year it will be easier to identify the safest gloves and garments, thanks to a rating system developed by Deakin University researchers.

Keen biker Dr Chris Hurren and his colleague Dr Liz de Rome, of the university’s Institute for Frontier Materials, tested fabrics used in biker clothing—such as denim and synthetic protective liners—to measure breathability and durability. More than 60 per cent performed poorly. Continue reading Making motorcycle clothing safer

Towards a portable test for tiredness

Saliva or blood tests may one day be used to detect when we’re too tired to drive or think clearly.

A team of scientists has found specific biological markers (biomarkers) linked to reduced alertness, including eye movement patterns, blood-based metabolites, chemiresistor signal responses and various speech parameters.

If these can be used to develop a test, they hope to see it on the road and in the workplace within the next two-to-five years. Continue reading Towards a portable test for tiredness

How to stop people entering floodwater

People continue to enter floodwater in vehicles and on foot, despite many knowing the risks.

Researchers from the Bushfire Natural Hazards CRC and Risk Frontiers, Macquarie University, analysed the who, when and why of flood fatalities, so they could target information to high-risk groups and hopefully prevent further deaths. Continue reading How to stop people entering floodwater

Putting a cap on fatigue

Drivers of trucks, dozers, graders and excavators at Australian mines could soon be saved from the risks of fatigue by their headgear.

Putting a cap on fatigue
The SmartCap protects against fatigue. Credit: CRC Mining

Incidents on mine sites caused by tiredness are a significant cause of injuries and deaths, and cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars in lost production and accidents each year. So Dr Daniel Bongers at the Cooperative Research Centre for Mining (CRCMining) in Brisbane has invented a SmartCap, fitted with sophisticated sensors which can “read” the brain’s nerve activity through hair and detect the level of fatigue of the wearer.

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Faster flash flood warnings

Flash flooding, brought on by sudden torrential rain, killed dozens of people in Australia in 2011. Because of their very nature, it has been difficult to provide effective warnings. And that is a significant gap in Australia’s natural disaster management, according to the submission of RMIT University’s Centre for Risk and Community Safety to the 2011 Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry.

Technology could mean more effective warnings against flash flooding, like the kind that hit Toowoomba, Queensland in January 2011. Credit: KingBob.net
Technology could mean more effective warnings against flash flooding, like the kind that hit Toowoomba, Queensland in January 2011. Credit: KingBob.net

We now have the technology to deliver such warnings, says director of the Centre, Prof John Handmer. “But using it would raise issues about how quickly both the authorities and people at risk are prepared to make critical decisions when they receive the information.”

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Preparing for the worst

Fire fighters should identify what are potentially the worst-case events and prepare for them, even if they are extremely unlikely to occur, says Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre psychology researcher Claire Johnson.

Preparing for the worst
Fire fighters need to be prepared for the worst that can happen. Credit: Queensland Fire and Rescue Service

“A failure to consider worst-case scenario possibilities has been implicated in a number of high-profile investigations into Australian bushfire disasters,” says Claire, who submitted her PhD thesis on worst-case scenario planning to La Trobe University in Melbourne in March this year.

For instance, the inquiries following the Canberra bushfires in 2003 and the Wangary fires on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula in 2006 both suggested lack of considering the worst contributed to an underestimation of the threat posed.
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