Conor Tosh, a graduate student at the University of Lethbridge, supervised by Dr. Jon Doan, is conducting innovative research in partnership with the Canadian Renewable Energy Association (CanREA) to advance sustainable energy in Canada and around the world. The focus is on ergonomics and human factors and aims to ensure the safety and well-being of wind turbine technicians (WTT). This initiative aligns with CanREA’s broader vision for a net-zero future by 2050.

Tosh’s journey began in an undergraduate ergonomics class, where an ergonomic assessment at a local café revealed the profound impact of small ergonomic changes. This experience, coupled with the guidance of Dr. Jon Doan, sparked Tosh’s interest, leading him to embark on a graduate research project.

Tosh highlights the invaluable support of Dr. Doan, emphasizing the importance of mentorship and collaboration. Dr. Doan’s guidance, network, and industry experience have played a pivotal role in shaping Tosh’s research journey.

The collaboration with CanREA and the Wind Turbine Technician Laboratory at Lethbridge College involves identifying and mitigating work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WR-MSD) risks for WTTs. Tosh’s research focuses on tasks like manual materials handling and yaw-drive replacement – both crucial for sustaining the expanding wind industry.

Tosh emphasizes the project’s real-world impact, noting its significance as the first to objectively quantify WR-MSD risks for WTTs. The project not only ensures a safe workforce, but also contributes to the sustainable growth of Canada’s wind industry.

The unique aspect of Tosh’s project lies in integrating field tasks into lab experiments, using three-dimensional motion capture for valid outcomes. This approach not only quantifies risks but also explores workers’ perceptions of task difficulty, providing a comprehensive understanding of ergonomic challenges.

While Tosh’s current focus is on ergonomics, he aspires to enroll in the Ergonomic Consulting program at Fanshawe College, London, Ontario, after completing his graduate thesis, showcasing a dedication to continuous learning and application.

CanREA’s commitment to human factors is clear in the launch of a comprehensive three-year Human Factors Workplan. Led by Mary MacLean, this resource addresses physical, cognitive, psycho-social, fiscal elements, and more, reflecting a holistic approach to human factors in the renewable energy industry.

The launch of the work plan at the CanREA Operations Summit marks a significant step. The Human Factors Working Group, comprising industry experts, will prioritize items to focus on next. The resource aims to broaden understanding and provide practical insights for CanREA members. This groundbreaking research initiative is made possible through the generous support of the Mitacs Accelerate funding program.

Find more at Environmental Journal.

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