Workplace simulator fast tracks solutions to workplace problems

Laurentian University's workplace simulator fast tracks solutions to real workplace problems for industry.

Workplace simulator helps solve occupational health and safety challenges

Laurentian University grad student Margaret Kanya-Forstner tests whole body vibration in bicycle trailers

2 years ago
Kanya-Forstner is using a new workplace simulator to determine how much vibration a child experiences in a typical bicycle ride and how to reduce it by manipulating the seat cushion inside. 0:38

It's a piece of equipment that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world and it's worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It can fast track solutions to real problems for workplaces and industry. 

And it's on campus at Laurentian University in Sudbury.

Sandra Dorman is director of the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health—known as CROSH.

Dorman says she's thrilled with CROSH's brand new workplace simulator that combines three important pieces of infrastructure—an environmental chamber that can duplicate workplace temperatures and humidity, a vibration robot that can replicate the amount of vibration a worker is exposed to on the job, and a virtual reality eye tracker.

"You can use all three pieces of infrastructure on their own and do some exciting experiments, or you can put all three together and replicate a workplace," said Dorman.

"We may have to go into the workplace to measure or understand the problem, but then we can replicate it in the lab," said Dorman. "While the boss likes to have workers do their actual work when they're on the job, we can take all the time we want to try out 20 different solutions," she added.

Sandra Dorman is director of the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health— CROSH — at Laurentian University in Sudbury. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Dorman cites the example of seat manufacturing for big mobile equipment.

"There's a lot of vibration that's transferred up to the worker," she said. "If you put the wrong seat in, it can actually amplify the vibration and cause injuries to their back or their neck," she explained. . 

The vibration robot can do the same for boots.

"Imagine the vibration that's coming up through the feet," she said. "You can stand on top of this machine and try out different boots and see which ones make it worse and which ones make it better," she added.

Using the workplace simulator, CROSH can also test heat stress and cold.

"There's lots of Canadians that are freezing cold trying to work on a piece of equipment," said Dorman.

Graduate student Margaret Kanya-Forstner is doing research on how children in bicycle trailers experience vibration. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Margaret Kanya-Forstner is one of Dorman's graduate students. Her research involves whole body vibration in bicycle trailers. Using a dummy to replicate a child, she's doing a study on the trailers that cyclists put behind their bicycles to carry their children.

"I'm very curious to see the vibration that is transferred to a child in a typical bicycle ride and if we can reduce the vibration by manipulating the seat cushion inside," said Kanya-Forstner.

"Vibration and bicycle trailers is a pretty new topic," she added. "There's very limited studies on it, especially vibration in children."

Dorman says the possibilities with the workplace simulator are endless.

She says while their focus is on the workplace, people can rent time on the equipment.

"If you can dream it, we can do it," she adds. 

With files from Markus Schwabe


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