NSCA Foundation

Saving lives through workplace brain training

Friday, 26 April, 2019

Saving lives through workplace brain training

Computerised brain training could help to save lives in the workplace, according to a new study.

It found that workplace performance among electrical powerline workers was improved through the use of training. Given that errors in this line of work have the capacity to lead to fatalities, the study’s findings are particularly useful.

The research was carried out by Posit Science, maker of BrainHQ online brain exercises and assessments, and is published in peer-reviewed journal Professional Safety.

The two-part study examined the impact of training with BrainHQ exercises on both error risk and actual error incidence.

Because of the risk of worker injury or death and enormous cost to the grid (and associated homes and businesses) of an outage, powerline workers really are not allowed to make errors. However, any human endeavour involves risk of error and, while infrequent, errors with large consequences do occur.

The researchers recruited 43 powerline workers (all male and average age 38.8) and assigned them to either a BrainHQ training group, where they were asked to complete 30 minutes of training three times a week for eight weeks (a total of 12 hours), or to a control group.

The primary risk outcome measure was the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) assessment, used as a measure of error risk that differed from the training. All participants were tested at the beginning and end of the eight-week period. The researchers found the intervention group did significantly better than the control at the SART risk measure after training.

This first part of the study, showing a reduction in error risk from training, was completed four years ago. Since then, the researchers have tracked data on workplace incidents. They found a significant difference between the two groups in being error-free over the four-year period — with 62.5% of the trained group being error-free, compared to 15.8% of the control. They also reported, on an odds-ratio basis, that members of the control group were nearly nine times more likely to be involved in an incident than those who trained.

The independent researchers from Power of Learning, Rush University and the University of Minnesota wrote: “The significance of these results demonstrates that it is possible to increase sustained attention ability in electric power line installers through cognitive training.”

Dr Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science, added, “This is an important demonstration of benefits BrainHQ training can deliver in real-world situations.

“Prior studies have shown BrainHQ exercises help with better performance at complex real-world tasks, perhaps most notably in safer driving and in reductions in fall risk. BrainHQ exercises emphasising perceptual speed and accuracy are now used by a number of forward-looking enterprises to improve productivity and safety; however, this is the first published workplace study. We expect more will follow this year.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/vege

NSCA Foundation is a member based, non-profit organisation working together with members to improve workplace health and safety throughout Australia. For more information and membership details click here
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