HFES 2007 Day 1: Opening Plenary

I sat in on the opening plenary session this morning.  There was an address by Nancy Nord, acting chair of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.  Nothing too earth shattering.  She made the point that all this media flurry around lead paint from toys manufactured in China actually doesn’t represent an unusual amount of product recalls, just an unusual amount of media.  There has been no increase in product recalls in recent years at all.  She also pointed out that on the same day as one of those big toy recalls – where there have been no injuries – a home space heater was recalled that actually had caused fires, injuries, and deaths, yet it wasn’t covered in the media at all.

There were then a number of awards given out, including one particularly interesting to me.  Patricia Ann Scott of Rhodes University in South Africa won the Distinguished International Colleague Award for her tireless work in improving the lives of manual laborers (such as miners) in developing nations, particularly in South Africa and across the continent. 

This is my first HFES meeting.  I’ve been to many CHIs before and know many people involved with the UPA.  This organization is heavily focused on the biomechanical and physiological aspects of design, and is also heavily attended by researchers and other academics.  It seems to be a fairly small, tight-knit community working across aviation, defense, industrial, and related application areas.  Given my software background, most of the content will likely be indirectly valuable to my work, but I’m looking forward to hearing from the researchers and other participants and finding ways to apply this sort of knowledge to our products and methods at Rockwell Automation.

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