On Aug. 18, industry standards organization Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) published its latest guideline for applying functional safety to autonomous systems at mine sites.

The Guideline for Applying Functional Safety to Autonomous Systems in Mining is meant to act as a common approach for autonomous systems designers, mining companies, regulators and operations and integration teams. According to GMG, the guideline is a starting point in addressing the current unclear requirements for the functional safety of automation in surface and underground mining activities.

The guideline provides direction on topics such as software development and competency management, outlines an example of a functional safety lifecycle for autonomous systems in mining and attempts to establish industry alignment on expectations and requirements for functional safety.

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Gareth Topham, principal advisor for functional safety at Rio Tinto and one of the guideline project co-leaders, stated that the guideline will “provide clarity on the expectations between the various parties involved in delivering automation to mines” and improve safety conditions where these systems are used.

“Whether it be fully autonomous or semi-autonomous, there are degraded modes or unexpected situations that people deal with every day in mines,” he said. “To manage the removal of a potential control and introduce a technical solution as an alternative, we have to apply functional safety principles to confirm we are reducing the risks as much as we reasonably can.”

According to GMG, the guideline will evolve over time as new standards and technological advances in autonomous systems are introduced and adopted. The organization is also currently working on a separate project regarding system safety that is meant to complement the guideline and address topics such as safety case and risk management, integration and more.