Grant awarded to study workplace ergonomics

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Michael Holmes, the assistant professor in Brock University’s Department of Kinesiology, was awarded a grant of nearly $100,000 by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund to study workplace ergonomics and making work a safer place.

The grant will go towards three sophisticated machines and some smaller equipment to help Holmes study how people sit, stand and use their muscles on the job by tracking muscle activity and body movements.

“The equipment is fundamental to everything we do, so the John R. Evans Leaders Fund is a really important program,” said Holmes, in a press release. “There are very few funding avenues in Canada that allow you to purchase large, expensive pieces of equipment.”

The equipment will be located in the new Neuromechanics and Ergonomics Lab at Brock. Among the equipment is a motion capture system, which is similar to the devices used in the development of gaming, animation and cinema. It consists of nearly a dozen cameras to record participants’ postures and body movements as they perform a variety of simulated workplace tasks. The cameras emit infrared light that is picked up by small reflective markers on the person.

Other equipment includes a haptic wrist robot to allow researchers to look at how the forearm muscles control the hand, and an electromyography system, which evaluates and records electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles. The combination of the three machines will give Holmes and his research team a complete picture of workplace movement, which can then be used to better design workplace tools and objects or change workstations to help prevent repetitive strain injuries.

Holmes was awarded a Canada Research Chair in Neuromuscular Mechanics and Ergonomics, an achievement that was announced near the end of 2016. Holmes aims to understand why some people are afflicted with workplace injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, while others doing the same job do not.

“This research will lead to workplace and tool design strategies that make occupational tasks safer and more efficient,” he said. “It will impact the lives of working Canadians because work shouldn’t hurt.”

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