Innovators: Dressed for Safety and Survival at Sea

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    • Dr. Jon Power discusses his career, his interest in human factors testing and how he became an expert witness at the Cougar Flight 91 Inquiry.
     

    Dressed for Safety and Survival at Sea

    added on July 15, 2016 @ 9:56pm by Admin

    Specializing in the safety and survival of marine workers and travellers has been the focus of Dr. Jonathan (Jon) Power’s career for the past ten years. He began his journey as an undergrad working toward a Bachelor of Science in Biology at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). From there he continued his studies in human physiology, attaining his Masters of Science in Kinesiology also at MUN and his Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Portsmouth in Portsmouth, England.

    Dr. Power has always had a passion for science and the diversity of scientific experimentation. While at  university he worked in the kinesiology lab, helping with the diverse studies performed there. As he explains, “This gave me good exposure to unique equipment, fascinating studies, scientific methods, and the world of research in general.”

    After finishing grad school, Jon worked as a research assistant on a sea urchin divers study with Safety Net at Memorial University. It was in the summer of 2005 that he began his work with the National Research Council of Canada to investigate the performance of safety equipment in harsh weather conditions of the ocean; conditions often found during an emergency. Despite having a background in human physiology Dr. Power’s work began by focusing on the engineering side of the projects he participated in. The first project that he was involved in at NRC is one he has proudly labelled as one of his favorites a gigantic life raft developed specifically to hold 150 people. He helped to perform tests with smaller models before conducting tests with a full scale raft in the ocean that he describes as “approximately the size of a house”. He continued focusing on engineering for  the next two years before he began his work in human factors testing. He is so passionate about research that he himself has participated in studies: “I partook in [one] study that required me to eat a breakfast sprinkled with radioactive isotopes.”

    So how did Jon Power become an expert on human factors testing?  It was his first human factors project that helped change the course of his career. Power helped to investigate immersion suit standards that, at that time, were not doing an adequate job of  representing the harsh conditions often found during marine accidents. During his work on this project, tragedy struck Newfoundland.  On March 12th, 2009 the Cougar Flight 91 helicopter crashed into the harsh North Atlantic resulting in 17 fatalities despite the use of immersion suits. Dr. Power was asked to testify as an “expert witness” for the inquiry following the crash. “This is why we do the work we do. To investigate standards and equipment in order to understand why these procedures are failing and to work to ensure that in the future the equipment does not fail the users as it has in the past”. Power and his team have since made a major impact on a Canadian standard for helicopter suits. Shortly prior to the inquiry and owing to his experience and knowledge Jon was asked to join the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) for Immersion Suit Systems; a position he still holds today and of which he is immensely proud of.

    In addition to the CGSB Jon is a proud member of the NRC research ethics board (REB) which is responsible for approving every project undertaken by NRC that involves human participants. This allows him to review many diverse and fascinating studies taking place across NRC and this has become “one of the best parts of the job”.

    So what is he doing now? Jon is currently working with Dr. Michael Taber from Falck Safety Service Canada on a project that is investigating the influence of wave magnitude on the ability to retain sea survival. Jon is also working with his colleagues on developing a range of proposals for marine safety related research that includes both engineering and human factors based work. “I am very thankful to have my position with NRC’s Ocean, Coastal, and River Engineering portfolio and I enjoy the diversity of my work here, which includes collecting data, office work, as well as going out into the field to observe large-scale experiments.”

    At present Jon is working with the Arctic Program Lead while leading the Marine Safety Thrust of the Arctic Program and coordinating with respective project managers in the thrust.

    Whatever project he is working on, reviewing or evaluating you can rest assured that Dr. Jon Power is always toiling towards an improved and safer means of survival at sea!