Not your typical kinesiology experience

Sep 18th, 2014

Michelle Osmond

Not your typical kinesiology experience

Kinesiology may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about oceans, but they are more connected than they seem.

What about working conditions for offshore workers – do the accommodations work for offshore workers who are at sea for weeks? What about health and safety procedures? Is the safety equipment in good working order?

Kinesiology masters students, Nicole Bishop and Katie Aylward, interned with the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) in Houston, Texas for several months recently answering these questions. 

When Ms. Bishop first started her kinesiology degree, she didn’t know that oceans research and work was a possibility. “For my final work term, I assisted Dr. Scott MacKinnon with his research focusing on safety in marine and oceans environments and I have not looked back since.”

ABS is an international classification society devoted to promoting the security of life, property and the marine environment through the development and verification of standards for the design, construction and operational maintenance of marine-related facilities.

Last fall, ABS was looking for an intern and contacted Dr. MacKinnon, Ms. Bishop’s graduate supervisor, who recommended her. While there, she passed along a recommendation to hire Ms. Aylward to an employer in the company who was looking for someone with a similar background.

“Many people assume that pursing a degree in kinesiology means continuing on to work in health care, however, that’s not the case anymore,” says Ms. Bishop. “The Memorial kinesiology program is rapidly expanding and the opportunities are endless if you just do a little searching to see what’s out there.” 

Ms. Aylward also learned that few people know kinesiology exists in this industry. “Even engineers and surveyors, who have worked in the industry for years, still have no idea what it is we do. It’s always interesting to me because human factors and ergonomics has been a crucial aspect of the nuclear industry and the aviation industry for many years now. The marine industry is a few years behind and is only now really making human factors a forefront issue when it comes to marine safety and vessel design.”

Ms. Bishop worked with the Safety and Human Factors Department on projects looking at the accommodations area criteria for sea-going vessels to determine the appropriate criteria for lighting, vibration, noise and air quality. Ms. Aylward worked on guides and guidance notes that provide rules and regulations to owners and operators of ABS classed vessels as well as calculating statistics on the number of incidents, accidents and fatalities that have occurred within the company worldwide (more than 5,000 employees working from over 70 countries). Also, both students worked together to test the latest safety equipment for ABS surveyors such as cooling vests, ear and eye protection, and other personal protective equipment.

“I personally like how the industry is always evolving,” notes Ms. Bishop. “Research is consistently being performed to improve safety for employees, to protect the environment, and to refine and develop sate-of-the-art technology and equipment.”

ABS and MUN have a long-standing relationship with students from both the kinesiology and naval engineering programs completing internships and co-op work terms there. In fact, ABS also has its own Harsh Environment Technology Centre (HETC) in the Faculty of Engineering, which was created in 2009 to support the development of technologies for ships and offshore structures operating in harsh environments.

Ms. Aylward described the whole experience as ‘unforgettable’. At the end of the internship, she was offered a full-time position as a human factors specialist in the Safety and Human Factors Group.

“I would encourage students in all fields, especially Human Kinetics and Recreation to go outside their comfort zone and try something different while still in school … Undergrad ends so quickly and so many students are left wondering where to go next. This decision will be much easier if you have experiences to reflect on.”