Kathryn Woodcock is an associate professor at Ryerson and also the head of THRILL.

Photo Courtesy: Ryerson University

Roller coaster program wins safety award

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By Hayley Hanks

A Ryerson professor was among four awarded the inaugural Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) award. Kathryn Woodcock, associate professor in the occupation and public health department at Ryerson, received the award for her work studying the safety of roller coasters and amusement parks.

“We were particularly pleased with the quality of candidates nominated in this inaugural year of the awards,” Lynn Ramsay, a communications advisor at the TSSA, said via email.

The Tools for Holistic Ride Learning and Leadership (THRILL) program uses engineering and ergonomics (the study of the efficiency and well-being of humans in a system) and applies it to amusement park rides and attractions, as well as behaviour patterns of riders. The program studies why riders behave the way they do and attempts to understand how to control their behaviour by manipulating the ride through engineering.

The TSSA is a non-profit organization that focuses on improving safety in Ontario’s four elements of health and safety: boilers and pressure vessels, fuels, upholstered and stuffed articles and, Woodcock’s category, elevating devices, amusement devices and ski lifts.

This year, THRILL has been focusing on how to make rides safer for more participants and how to cater to guests with certain disabilities or conditions. Woodcock has chaired a task group comprised of more than 200 people to begin standardizing ride language, which will ensure inclusivity for all guests.

Woodcock is also on several committees, such as the Global Safety Committee of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, and the American Society for Testing and Materials Committee F24. These committees attempt to make rides safer or standardize ride designs and operations used globally.

“Industry involvement helps me be confident that I am understanding the industry needs and can focus my research,” Woodcock said.

When at Ryerson, Woodcock works with undergraduate students ranging from second to fourth year in topics such as accident theory, safety evaluation, integrated disability management and systems management.She has supervised Engineering master’s students and provided extracurricular training to undergraduates from a variety of programs since 2002, and is on a number of committees and advisory councils.

The TSSA’s Public Safety Awards were introduced this year to recognize individuals or organizations contributing to health and public safety in one of the TSSA’s four categories. Seventeen nominations were submitted from March until June this year. The recipients, of whom there is no set number per year, will be awarded at the TSSA’s annual general meeting each September. The number of recipients is dependent upon the number of nominations received.

The awards are meant to celebrate those in Ontario who bring more safety and safety awareness to businesses, systems and the public who interact with them.

Other recipients of the award included a firefighter filmmaker who produced a short film about carbon monoxide poisoning, an advocate for carbon monoxide poisoning awareness and the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance, who created a system for the location of underground pipes and cables to further reduce accidents such as gas leaks.

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