Underground mining has always been associated with higher risks that are different from those in other sectors. Let's dive deep into some interesting statistics taken from different industries and find out if this is the case. The number of fatalities in the trucking industry, for instance, grew 6.6% from last year taking the number from a mind-boggling 786 in 2016 to 840 in 2017.
Trucking as a profession had a fatal injury rate of 26.8 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, compared with 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers for all professions.
The fishing industry had a fatal injury rate of 99.8 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, the highest rate of any occupation. "Zero" is the only acceptable number when it comes to fatalities, but it's also important to see that number in a wider context. This includes having policies, training, and engineering controls in place to address the major causes of fatalities and injuries.
Focusing our attention back to the underground mining industry, some hazards, such as ground instability, are inherent in the underground environment, while others may arise due to the complexity of mining processes and activities. If these risks are not managed properly, they can result in fatalities and serious injuries.
According to International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM), the highest number of fatalities in 2018 was attributed to mobile equipment and transportation, overtaking the fall of ground category that had consistently been the number one killer in past years. With advances in technology, some of these risks can be mitigated. The advent of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Autonomy provides an opportunity to manufacture smarter machines that can improve safety by reducing exposure of workers to hazardous conditions.
Major mining equipment manufacturers are excited and have started embracing these technologies with a strong emphasis on improving safety and productivity. Mining companies are adopting these technologies at a slow pace, but as is always the case, there are a few early adopters that set the benchmark for the industry.
MacLean Engineering is one such company that quickly focused its efforts towards building a team of engineers dedicated to conceptualizing, designing and implementing these technologies in the underground mining context. To illustrate an example, the MacLean Vehicle Monitoring System enables operators to monitor the health of critical systems and provides diagnostics delivering significant benefits to productivity, operating costs, and safety.
Another example is the role MacLean Bolters have played in Ontario's improved fall-of-ground safety over the past three decades. With the first MacLean bolter entering the market in 1984, and over 500 units sold globally, the company has been able to replicate the Ontario experience in other hard rock mining jurisdictions, with the appropriate training program and safety culture backdrop. The key innovation with the MacLean bolter was in fact not one, single feature, but instead a series of design elements that work together to deliver accuracy, speed, versatility, and, most importantly, a safer application environment for operators.
Last but not least, MacLean has been working on its fleet electrification program for the past three years and we are now able to offer mining companies the option to reduce their carbon footprint by switching to battery powered fleets with zero emissions, low noise and low heat operations. Workplace health and safety are also big benefits.
These are exciting times for the mining industry, and the onus is on the mining fraternity (equipment suppliers and mining companies) to make the best use of the technologies available and provide a safer underground environment to the workers.