Researching motion-induced fatigue in offshore workers

The kinesiology masters student recently won a provincial government Special Scholarship for Students to Pursue Graduate Studies Related to Resource Development worth $7,500 to help him with his research in this area.

“A regular shift work schedule for seafarers in the offshore industry typically consists of a six hours on, six hours off rotation,” noted Pearcey. “Unfortunately, research investigating the effects of MIF on human performance is limited.”

Pearcey’s hypothesis going into this study, based on previous research, was that with more motion, reaction time, motor task performance and production would decrease. But he wanted to determine the extent to which MIF for a long duration affects human performance and to define a time line for it.

The study included two sessions: one hour of motion, and one of control (no motion). The motion conditions were performed on ship motion simulator in the Faculty of Engineering. Participants performed several tests so researchers could look at reaction time including visuo-motor accuracy-tracking, which Pearcey explains means having someone produce a task that matches what they see on a screen. “In this case, we were measuring their ability to pull on a strap, which produced a line representing the amount of force applied, and match it to a line that represented various amounts of force.”

“An increased understanding of how people learn and fatigue in motion environments would be valuable information when creating work and training schedules for employees in this industry in terms of productivity and safety. It may also help us create simulation techniques to combat motion-induced fatigue and decrease learning times when the workers are immersed in motion environment.”

Pearcey has completed the data analysis part of his thesis research, The effects of prolonged motion on vigilance task performance, and is in the process of analyzing the results. This scholarship means that Pearcey can concentrate his time on producing quality results and will help him with travel expenses to a conference so he can present some of his work.