Safety and standards
Site safety is another factor that leads companies to choose mobile laser scanning over other inventory methods. Wall notes, “The use of laser scanning, in general, is a safer and more accurate method for inventorying stockpiles.”
Safety can be either prescribed, in the form of government regulations, or desired, in the form of company policies that reduce liability, property damage, and costly injuries. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued a number of regulations that apply to stockpiles and other related facilities such as drawholes, bins, hoppers, and surge piles. These regulations prohibit a worker from standing or walking on a pile when it may expose the person to a hazard. Other regulations require the construction of platforms, staging, or safety lines.
Laser scanning eliminates the need for anyone to walk on a storage pile and can, in the case of mobile scanning, keep the survey crew safely inside a vehicle. When the project requires the use of a tripod-mounted scanner, the survey crew generally has the flexibility to select locations that are not in harm’s way.
The use of mobile laser scanning as a standard method for inventorying aggregate stockpiles in the United States is being addressed by the American Society of Testing Materials International (ASTM). Originally formed in 1904, ASTM Committee D05 on Coal and Coke is responsible for a variety of standards for this industry that have application to aggregate and mineral mining and storage as well.
ASTM D6172 was originally developed to standardize photogrammetric measurement procedures for inventorying coal and coke stock piles. Recognizing the importance of laser scanning techniques, as well as GPS, this standard is now in the process of being updated to include these game-changing technologies.
Investing in the future
During a downturn in the economy, forward-looking companies may see the use of new technology as an opportunity to position themselves for future growth. Having up-to-date, accurate inventory information and confidence that it is being obtained in a cost-effective, safe, and defendable manner is critical to overall business operations and a potential source of competitive advantage for aggregate companies.
3D laser scanning is a powerful technology that, from a technical point of view, is well suited to the physical inventory of aggregates and minerals. Safety agencies, standards organizations, and owners are beginning to recognize the multiple benefits that this methodology offers. In this rapidly emerging world of 3D technology, it is not a question of if the use of laser scanning will become the preferred method of developing physical inventories of construction materials, it is just a question of when.
Richard A. Hisert Ph.D., principal, and Trevor R. Thomas, P.E. are with H2H Associates, LLC. Based in Troy, N.Y. H2H is a consulting firm that provides geologic, hydrogeologic, construction, regulatory, and environmental services.
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