Protection, safety and more

March 2009 Access Control & Identity Management

Biometric technology is being increasingly adopted and accepted by the mining sector. The technology offers mines a multitude of applications that help protect the organisations from threats that loom even larger in the current economic climate.

Many mines in South Africa use biometric systems on a daily basis for fast, accurate and secure access by employees and visitors. Unlike cards, tokens and passwords, fingerprints cannot be shared, lost, stolen or forgotten, and the technology is proven to be consistently reliable and accurate. Fingerprint readers are relatively non-disruptive to employees once implemented, because unlike systems such as iris scanning machines, fingerprint biometrics are practical, fast and accurate.

With the safety of miners as well as the protection of both employees and assets high on the agenda of mining houses, biometric-based access systems ensure that legitimate access is only available to relevantly qualified and suitably authorised staff.

In addition to employers knowing who is where at any given point, access to specific pre-determined areas can also be controlled. For example, in the interest of protecting a company’s intellectual property, only the IT staff may be allowed into the server room, so only the fingerprints of users registered for that area will grant access.

A fingerprint biometric identification system onto which all employees are enrolled, can be integrated into every business unit on a mine. The identities of employees need to be known for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with controlling access – payroll, taxation, medical schemes, employment contracts and so on. And all of the departments that require this kind of information can be linked through the biometric system.

Fingerprint readers can readily be linked to everything from payroll systems to what meal choices staff may make or what certified skills they have, when they are due for leave and even when they are next due for a medical check-up.

For example, a miner will not be allowed underground if his medical check-up is overdue, and reminders can be programmed into the system accordingly. Fingerprint biometrics can control who has access to what areas underground and can also control access to canteens, where the miners’ calorie intakes can be monitored. This type of information can be critical in the case of an accident underground, for example. The emergency workers will know exactly who is down the mine, and will have on record what qualifications they have as well as their medical histories – vital information in an emergency situation.

Time and attendance of shift workers is accurately recorded and this is linked to the payroll system, ensuring that those who worked the shift have been identified and are paid accordingly.

These business tools are not just about security but also impact on safety, for complete protection of both employees and assets. With this kind of integrated workforce management system, staff movements and locations can be monitored, resulting in better planning for everything from identifying security hotspots to managing employees’ work activities more accurately and comprehensively with a single, unified solution.


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