Half Day Workshop - PM

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Ergonomics-informed, Forensic Approaches to Falls Related to Built Environments

Half-day workshop proposed for 17 October 2016

at the Association of Canadian Ergonomists (ACE) Annual Conference, Niagara Falls, ON

led by Jake Pauls, CPE,* Consulting Services in Building Use and Safety, Toronto


Suitable for all levels of participant expertise. Ergonomics skills are valuable, but not essential.


Background: This workshop follows up a session-length presentation, at ACE2015 in Waterloo, by Jake Pauls: “Stairway Usability and Safety: What ergonomists should know about the critical state of the nexus of public health, ergonomics and law in Canada and the USA.” The entire presentation is available as a 38-minute, streaming video at: http://www.imagosentertainment.com/Under_Construction.html.  Pre-workshop viewing of this and other videos at this link, as well as at www.bldguse.com/Stairways.html, makes it possible to keep the proposed workshop a half-day session rather than a full-day session and still permit significant time for informed discussion. The other videos focus, in state-of-the-art detail, on the two main sites of design/construction-related fall injuries: those related to stairways and those related to bathing, showering and toileting. These categories are responsible for annual societal injury costs, in the USA and Canada, on the order of $200 billion, a staggering societal toll that might be better appreciated when expressed on a per-hour basis—about 20 million dollars per hour for the USA and Canada.


Goals: Beyond the goal of appreciating the epidemiology and very high societal costs, the goals of the workshop are to:

  1. Increase the competence of participants in understanding the etiology (causes) of such missteps and falls;
  2. Follow up by improving abilities to intervene in their prevention;
  3. Until that is achieved, equip ergonomists and others to investigate, document and report on such incidents in a state-of-the-art, professional fashion that is needed for competent forensic services applied in post-falls litigation proceedings, and;
  4. Apply such appreciation, prevention and analytical skills to the place where we are most vulnerable, our own homes—the place where societal controls (such as from building and housing codes) are least applied due to design, construction and legal conventions.


Thus, a major objective for the workshop is bring together a range of disciplines concerned with falls—the leading cause of nonfatal injuries. These include professionals with a wide range of roles including research, education, practice (with responsibilities for built environments design, construction, regulation, facility management; public health responses including nursing and EMS; etc.) and injury incident investigation plus related expert services in forensics. A key underlying assumption here is that ergonomists must become more relevant to much more than occupational settings which, heretofore, have been a prime focus of ACE (but not, to the same extent, some other national ergonomics associations).


This workshop comes after a series of one-day and half-day workshops around the world, over the last four decades, organized (and/or presented) by Jake Pauls, for a wide range of disciplinary contexts including ergonomics, public health, fire safety, architecture, engineering, and building regulation. Over the last decade alone, such workshops have been held in Canada, USA, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, United Arab Emirates, UK and Germany with shorter form (paper) presentations in these countries and others, notably the UK which hosts, in London, an international conference on falls on October 4-5, 2016.


* Jake Pauls is a Certified Professional Ergonomist (since 1993), member of ACE, HFES and CIEHF plus many other professional and technical organizations, member of about 15 national codes and standards committees (mostly in the USA), and author of many publications in peer reviewed and other contexts including trade publications (all listed in his 24-page Professional Biographical Summary). He has over 50 years of international technical and professional experience in construction, research, consulting—including forensic investigations plus documentation, and public health advocacy focused on built environment issues. To advance and recognize work by others in built environment codes and standards development, he initiated a new funding program and award at the Canadian Public Health Association in 2015. In 2014, after 26 years working from a US base, following 20 years of research at NRC Canada, he set up his main office in Toronto. His work continues on a growing international scale, but with a renewed focus on Canadian building codes which lag well behind US ones addressing fall safety issues.