Proximity Detection Systems (PDSs) are used in the mining industry for protecting mine workers from striking, pinning, and crushing injuries when they work in close proximity to heavy machines such as continuous mining machines (CMMs). Currently all PDSs approved by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) are magnetic field based systems which can be influenced by the presence of steel wire mesh that is commonly used for supporting roof and ribs in underground coal mines. In this paper, researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) characterized the influence of the mesh on the performance of magnetic PDSs by measuring the magnetic field difference around a CMM caused by the presence of the mesh. The results show that the magnetic fields are generally enhanced by the mesh which causes PDS detection zones to be increased correspondingly. It was discovered that the fields around the joints of two mesh sections have the greatest enhancement and thus deserve more attention. In addition, it was found that the presence of mesh can also cause a variation in the generator current. The experimental results show that the generator current variation and thus the magnetic field change caused by the mesh can be significant (on the order of ten) when the mesh is extremely close to the generator (e.g, less than 1 cm) and is negligible when mesh is relatively far (greater than 0.15 m). The findings in this paper can be used to develop guidelines and best practices to mitigate the influence of mesh on PDSs.
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