Saving Lives: The Case of RFID-Based Personnel Tracking in a Chinese Coal Mine

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China ranks first in hard coal production worldwide. Unfortunately, Chinese coal mines are also known to be the world’s deadliest and have recorded the largest number of fatal accidents and the highest death tolls. Radio frequency identification (RFID) seems to provide a potential solution to this human safety issue. Supported by the Chinese Coal Bureau, in 2007, an RFID-based personnel tracking system was developed and implemented at several major coal sites in northern China to improve safety. The system, known as the RFID positioning, attendance, and safety system (RFID-PASS), demonstrates a case for adoption of RFID in an industry that has not been studied in previous research. Our paper presents an example of how RFID technology is used to improve underground work safety and efficiency of operations at Wanglou Coal Mine, one of the largest coal mines owned by Linyi Coal Mine group in northern China. RFID readers were installed in underground working tunnels for the purpose of real-time tracking of miners’ activities and movements, to improve underground safety and to allow precise and quick rescue in the case of a disaster. Our case describes the details of the RFID-PASS system and provides insights into how further safety improvements can be made using RFID technology at mines in any part of the world.