Bernie Goldie

Conference targets standards for physically demanding jobs

The University of Wollongong’s close ties with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) were demonstrated when the two organisations co-sponsored an international conference on physiological standards for physically demanding occupations.

The inaugural Australian Conference on Physiological and Physical Employment Standards was held recently at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Leading scientists from around the world attended the conference, which focused on the development, implementation and justification of physiological employment standards within demanding occupations, such as the military and the emergency services, but also within private-sector jobs such as mining and heavy industry.

Associate Professor Nigel Taylor (UOW) and Dr Dan Billing from DSTO’s Human Protection and Performance Division organised the conference, which featured keynote speakers from Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Israel and the US.

The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel (Warren Snowdon), Chief Defence Scientist Dr Alex Zelinsky and UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE all spoke during the conference opening session, welcoming delegates from 10 countries. Guest speakers included the Chief of Army (Lieutenant General David Morrison), the Commissioner of Fire & Rescue NSW (Greg Mullins) and the Assistant Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (Leanne Close).

The conference dealt with a range of issues concerning the way national and civil organisations require workers to operate in physically demanding conditions, and how those organisations deal with maintaining operational capability while ensuring workplace safety and non-discriminatory work practices.

UOW’s Centre for Human and Applied Physiology in the School of Health Sciences has been working closely with DSTO on a project designed to support the development of Physical Employment Standards for the Australian Defence Force.

The work has significant implications for all prospective recruits and existing personnel, as it will lead to the establishment of standards that will affect entry and cross-trade transfers, and establish age and gender-neutral standards that will both increase operational capability and reduce injuries.

UOW had five scientists embedded within DSTO from 2009 to 2012. At present, three post-doctoral fellows are working on this collaborative project, with five doctoral scholarships soon to be offered. The contracts associated with this work have brought $3.6 million into UOW.


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  • UOW’s Centre for Human and Applied Physiology has been working closely with DSTO on a project designed to support the development of Physical Employment Standards for the Australian Defence Force. Photo: Lauren Black, Defence Digital Media