UK offshore helicopter study wins award for innovative contribution

L to R: Arthur Stewart, Emily Taylor, and Robert Ledingham; Image: RGU

The results of a joint project by Robert Gordon University (RGU) and Step Change in Safety into the body sizes of UK offshore workers on board various helicopter crafts has received an award for outstanding contribution to ergonomics.

RGU said on Thursday that the three-month study was a response to a mandate from the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure offshore workers were sitting adjacent to windows through which they could make an emergency escape.

The project involved measuring the shoulders of a 75,000 strong workforce to establish how many were designated as ‘XBR’ or ‘extra broad.’

With these figures, the team would be able to advise seating logistics which maximized the probability of successful escape following concerns about window egress in an emergency situation.

After the project was completed, the team was awarded the William Floyd Award from the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors, for outstanding and innovative contributions to the field. The study was led by Arthur Stewart, from RGU’s School of Health Sciences.

Stewart said: “[…] we were able to discover that approximately 3% of offshore workers had a shoulder breadth exceeding 55.9cm, reaching XBR status, and we could then examine the safety implications of their seat positioning within the different models within the helicopter fleet.”

Stewart collaborated on the project with Emily Taylor, a senior business analyst from Step Change in Safety, who oversaw a range of aspects of the work, including being the central liaison with industry stakeholders such as the CAA and helicopter operators.

Her work also included the marketing and promotion of the scheme directly to the workforce and licensing of equipment required.

Taylor added: “Collaboratively, we identified a specific issue, created a simple more sustainable solution which was easy to roll out, with minimal disruption to the user and the sector.”

Also playing a key role was RGU’s graduate Robert Ledingham from Survitec oversaw logistics for the study and organized a number of training events for measurers.

Ledingham said: “Being able to continue the work I undertook during my Masters of Research project and apply the findings to a real-world health and safety application was a rare and fortunate opportunity of which I am proud.”

The team accepted their award at an event held at Birmingham’s Hilton Metropole Hotel which hosted the 2018 Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors Annual Conference last week.

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