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COVID-19 accelerates conversion of anti-black lung tech into temperature monitor

SNL Image
The dashboard technology adapted to Bat Booth, which tracks employees' temperatures.
Source: Pulse Mining Systems

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted Australian mining equipment and technology companies Mideco Jia Pty. Ltd. and Pulse Mining Systems to fast-track plans to convert an analogue device that helps prevent black lung disease into a heat sensor that scans and tracks mine and quarry workers' potential of having contracted the new coronavirus.

Mideco originally launched in its walk-in "Bat Booth" in 2014, featuring a dust removal mechanical function that reduces the risk of dust-related lung diseases such as "black-lung" and silicosis, and has been used in mining and quarrying operations throughout the U.S., South America and Australia.

SNL Image
A mine site employee stepping out of the Bat Booth.
Source: Pulse Mining Systems

Bat Booth is used by Karreman Quarries Pty. Ltd. in Queensland, Glencore PLC, construction material manufacturer and supplier Boral Ltd. and BHP Group sites, among others, including helping the latter to keep radioactive dust at bay at the Olympic Dam operation in South Australia.

S&P Global Market Intelligence has learned that Mideco started discussions with Pulse to add the latter's dashboard technology to Bat Booth after the companies were first introduced to each other at the International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne, Australia, in late 2019.

The companies had just developed a prototype in January when the new coronavirus broke out and started spreading to the U.S.

Pulse project director Melanie Williamson said in an interview that Mideco had already planned to add a temperature checking function to Bat Booth sometime in the future, but the pandemic prompted the two companies to expedite those plans.

The new version, Bat Booth 2.0, is integrated with Pulse's developed business intelligence analysis and dashboard technology, measuring workers' body temperature each time they enter the booth. The data is immediately available to managers at any location, even working from home.

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Managers are immediately sent dashboard notifications and mobile alerts with any increase in a worker's normal body temperature by more than 1 degree Celsius, and site supervisors can take appropriate actions immediately. According to Mideco, each Bat Booth 2.0 can process up to 180 workers per hour.

The technology allows managers both on- and off-site to isolate individuals or work teams and allow other on-site employees to continue in safety, Williamson said.

SNL Image
Mideco Jia Managing Director
Melton White.
Source: Mideco Jia Pty. Ltd.

While Williamson said elevated temperature often contributes to workers starting to lose judgement capability and situational awareness, Mideco Managing Director Melton White also told S&P Global Market Intelligence that the technology was considered worthwhile expediting as higher body temperature is one of the first signs of COVID-19.

Williamson believes the technology is also particularly important in communicating to communities where miners operate that the industry is a leader in technology to assure safety against virus transmission.

White said the idea to add temperature testing to Bat Booth originated from a presentation he saw in Denver, Colorado, two years ago on heat stress, which is a precursor to multiple types of incidents on site.

He said the connectivity which Pulse's dashboard technology brought to Bat Booth was a "massive leap forward."