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ACE-ODAM 2017 Trip Report

Trip report from ACE-ODAM 2017 last week in Banff, Alberta Canada.

This year’s conference was a joint production between ACE, Association of Canadian Ergonomists, and ODAM, Organizational Design and Management. This was my first time attending ACE (called “ace” by participants), and it was my first trip to Canada. I’m glad to report that both were amazing.

The conference ran Monday - Thursday, but I arrived on Wednesday. And on Thursday I was to participate in a panel discussion on new cumulative/additive ergonomics evaluation models. Then I planned to return on the red eye flight Thursday night. My visit would be short, but I intended to absorb as much of ACE and Banff as possible.

Arriving into the Calgary Airport, you notice the amazing bronze horse statues.

(While getting the rental car, I heard something about fires and roads being closed … more about that later.)

And then the drive into Banff! This is no ordinary drive. Scenic views are the norm as you gradually cross the vast prairie and approach the mountains. A tourist town for sure. But once in Banff, words can’t describe it … a spectacular view in every direction. And Banff was a terrific conference venue. The organizers hit a home run with the location.

Not long after arriving Wed afternoon I joined up with Jim Potvin. In addition to being a really cool guy, Jim is a world-renowned ergonomics researcher and consultant. We batted around ergo ideas during the downhill walk to the ACE Social at the Elk and Oarsman, in downtown Banff.

The ACE Social held court in the large back room, past the bar area. It was quite an ergo gathering, with ergonomists from a variety of professional backgrounds & from multiple countries. There was a strong student contingent as well. Most attendees were obviously Canadian, but I managed to meet a few new-to-me ergonomists from the United States. The Canadians are wonderful hosts! I really enjoyed talking ergo and having a good time.

People came and went from the social, but a core group remained until around midnight (omitting names to protect the innocent). Those of us departing had an uphill walk from the downtown area back to the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Fortunately, there were no bear encounters during the walk back. [ I think there was ample noise to warn bears of our approach. ]

On Thursday, the beautiful scenery had turned to a smoky haze. Nearby fires had robbed us of the sharp, vivid colors of the mountains and made it slightly difficult to breath. The fires were 6 miles away, but no-one seemed alarmed.

After attending the conference most of the day on Thursday, the time arrived for the panel discussion I was participating in, The Challenges and Benefits of Calculating the Cumulative Ergonomics Risk Associated with Multiple Subtasks. This topic is on the cutting edge of research & innovation in applied ergonomics.

Some information as to why these new technologies are needed …

Traditional ergo evaluation tools are designed to evaluate individual tasks to determine the potential injury risk. Although a single task may pose the highest risk, the reality is that most jobs have multiple subtasks which also contribute to the overall level of risk. Until recently, ergonomics evaluation tools were simply unable to assess the combined effects of multiple subtasks (basically unable to accurately model the realities observed in industry).

On to the cumulative evaluation approaches …

This panel discussion was a rich presentation & discussion of these new multi-task, cumulative ergo evaluation methods.

Jim began by presenting the origin of these emerging ergo technologies. This began with the MAE Equation, which is an elegantly simple way to calculate the maximum acceptable force (as a % of maximum effort) for a task. The MAE requires only the single input of Duty Cycle (DC is the % of time the force is exerted). The MAE itself is a core building block in the subsequent approaches discussed.

Jim built off of the MAE and developed the RMQ (Root Mean Quartic) method. This method determines the weighted average of the effort levels (taken to the fourth power) across multiple subtasks. This was the first MAE-based equation for modeling the impact of multiple subtasks being performed in the same work cycle. This method has an applications history which was discussed by the panelists.

The next method discussed was the RCRA (Recommended Cumulative Recovery Allowance). I shared how I developed the initial model by transforming the MAE Equation through algebra & substitution. This initial equation determines the recovery time required for a muscle to recover from a force exertion. The model inputs are effort, frequency, and effort duration.

I then discussed how Jim and I subsequently collaborated to formalized the RCRA model. The RCRA model calculates the total recovery allowance required across multiple subtasks. This total recovery allowance (total recovery time) is then compared to the actual recovery time in the work cycle. In short, the RCRA method is a highly useful technique for evaluating multiple force exertions of a similar nature occur in the same work cycle … a capability truly needed by ergonomics practitioners.

During the panel discussion, three panelists shared extensive application examples of the RMQ and RCRA methods. Kevin Perdeaux (Cooper Standard), Margo Frazier (Consultant), and Carrie Taylor (Taylor’d Ergonomics) presented information-packed case studies where they had extensively applied these new methods. Applying new evaluation models is pioneering work. These ergonomists shared how they had made refinements, adjustments, etc. in applying the new models.

The application by others is very important to learn the finer points of applying any new model. I brought back many subtleties shared by the other panelists, as well as ideas for future model adjustments.

I have truly enjoyed the development, sharing, and early application of MAE-based RCRA evaluation technologies; but seeing others share their experiences was really cool. I wish we had recorded all of this on video. It felt kind of historic being part of this.

I will definitely return to ACE and Canada. And next time I’ll attend the entire conference.

I would highly recommend ACE to other ergonomists.


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