Mine Safety Inspections Go Mobile

Corsa CEO George Dethlefsen speaks to workers at a new Corsa coal mine in Friedens, Pa., Wednesday, June 7, 2017.

Corsa CEO George Dethlefsen speaks to workers at a new Corsa coal mine in Friedens, Pa., Wednesday, June 7, 2017. Dake Kang/Shutterstock.com

Inspectors are replacing the paper-based process with a smartphone and tablet app.

Coal miners—and their safety—have figured prominently in President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and, more recently, the administration’s efforts to incentivize mining on federal land.

For one Bethesda-based tech company, the recent spotlight on the mining industry could provide a boost in business. DMI sells technology that lets safety inspectors log their findings on a mobile device instead of on paper. The Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration is among its current customers.

More mining could mean more mine safety inspections;  the company recently made its mobile inspection platform widely available to other agencies, and has pitched it as an alternative to any paper-based inspection filing.

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At MHSA, more than 1,000 inspectors responsible for more than 30,000 inspections each year, and the agency has switched to the mobile system to cut down the processing time from months to minutes at a time, Syed Hafeez, MSHA’s director, said in a statement.

The platform lets inspectors input video, audio, photographs and other digital material showcasing the inspection site directly into the app, which updates in real time, and is accessible on smartphones and tablets. DMI constructed the system after observing mine safety inspectors who were using a three-page form to document their findings, according to the company. They’d often start at the end of the three-page form and fill it out toward the first page, so DMI’s engineers designed the digital version of the form to flow in the order people were actually using it, according to the company.

Though DMI only recently launched its mobile inspection platform, it has sold its product to a handful of unnamed agencies including a branch of the armed forces that was using paper documents weighing about 50 pounds to log inspections of vessels.