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Projects to help workers survive helicopter ditching

Announcement comes six years after deadly Newfoundland helicopter flight


(Canadian OH&S News) — The Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador (RDC) is investing $350,000 in two projects to help workers survive helicopter ditching or abandonment in water. These projects, related to escape exits and survival skills, are being undertaken by Falck Safety Services Canada, with funding from RDC, Petroleum Research Newfoundland and Labrador and Falck. The total value of the projects is approximately $700,000.

The announcement, on Jan. 20, came nearly six years after a Cougar Helicopters’ Sikorsky S-92A attempted to land off the coast of St. John’s, claiming the lives of 17 of the 18 passengers on board.

The first project seeks to identify the specific human factor requirements to open a Sikorsky S-92 push-out emergency escape exit, said a press release from the RDC, noting that the findings from the project could provide critical health and safety components necessary for future training guidance. The second project will investigate the effect of wave patterns on optimal training conditions, and how escape and survival skills are acquired.

“This research will provide valuable incremental information to trainers, safety and survival manufacturers and regulatory bodies,” said Glenn Janes, CEO of RDC, in the release. “The outcomes could also be applicable globally, in terms of future underwater escape training and exit design.”

Dr. Michael Taber, a senior research scientist with Falck Safety Services Canada in Dartmouth, N.S., told COHSN that the projects will be completed by March 31, 2016. When asked about the specific “human factor requirements” for opening a Sikorsky S-92 push-out emergency exit, Dr. Taber said that researchers would be collecting 3D motion capture, electromyography data, real-time biometrics (such as heart rate, breathing rate and axial rotation) and difficulty ratings from 50 participants who would be completing egress trials in both a wet and dry environment.

“We will be conducting a detailed observational task analysis of the 3D motion capture data, as well as syncing additional video footage and muscle activation input signals from the triceps, forearm and shoulder,” he added.

RDC is a provincial Crown corporation responsible for improving Newfoundland and Labrador’s research and development performance, the release said. The corporation works with research and development stakeholders, including business, academia and government agencies and departments to make strategic investments in people, R&D opportunities, and infrastructure.