APRG, School of Psychology, TCD Researchers win prestigious award, 01 March 2012
The International Ergonomics Association (IEA) and the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety present the annual Liberty Mutual Medal to recognise outstanding original research leading to the reduction of work-related injuries and/or to the advancement of theory, understanding, and development of occupational safety research. The Medal is awarded to the authors of an original scientific paper that meets criteria for innovation and impact. The most prestigious award of its kind in the field of occupational ergonomics and safety, it carries a stipend of $10,000. An international review committee, established by the IEA, selects the winning contribution from among the applicants worldwide. The winning paper, “A Performance Improvement Case Study in Aircraft Maintenance and its Implications for Hazard Identification,” was published in the journal Ergonomics (Vol. 53, No. 2, pp. 247–267, 2010) and was nominated for the award by the editorial panel of the journal.
The 2011 Medal was presented to the authors at the 18th World Congress on Ergonomics held in Recife, Brazil, February 12-16, 2012.
This is the first time the award has been given to Irish researchers. This award recognises the work of the Aerospace Psychology Research Group (APRG) in the School of Psychology.
The core work of the APRG concerns the human and organisational factors which underlie safety, reliability and change in complex safety-critical industries like aviation.
The winning researchers include Marie Ward, Ph.D., Nick McDonald, Ph.D., and Rabea Morrison, Dipl. Psych, Des Gaynor, M.A., and Tony Nugent, Licenced Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (LAME) & Part 147 Approved Instructor.
The research presented in the winning paper was part of an international research initiative, Human Integration into the Lifecycle of Aviation Systems (HILAS 2005–2009). HILAS was funded by the European Commission and had 40 partners from across the aviation industry and academia in Europe and beyond. The overall HILAS project goal was to expand the capability to manage ergonomics and human factors across the lifecycle of aviation, including continuous improvement of airline safety and operations, maintenance repair, and original equipment manufacturing.
Why is it important?
The paper reported on a successful change initiative, where many such initiatives fail. It showed how process improvement, through removing ‘blockers’ to working effectively resulted in a very profitable series of maintenance checks for the maintenance company, delivered on-time performance for the airline, and removed a lot of frustration for the workforce. The improvement program increased reporting, identification and mitigation of hazards. Despite a competitive contract, the airline and the maintenance company were able to collaborate to share information, manage risk and improve both safety and commercial outcomes for both companies.
It applied and demonstrated a new theory of change. Collaborative process modeling created a consensus about how the operation really worked and what needed to change; a strong local improvement team and a management process delivered effective solutions to problems; the development of trust and the measurement of progress began to transform the organisation’s culture.
It was the result of an intense collaboration in an innovation cluster. This initiative came out of many years of collaboration between TCD and the maintenance organisation, developing and sharing innovative ideas about people in complex systems. The research project, led by TCD, brought the airline into this action research process, demonstrating how the direct transfer of research-based knowledge into practice can stimulate process innovation and increase competitiveness.