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Heather Kahle

Session Synopsis: Broadband Alarms (BBA) Effect on Worker Safety

Despite the availability and use of back-up alarms, incidents involving reversing vehicles remain startlingly high.

When vehicles – especially large ones - are reversing, blind areas around the vehicle can block the view of the driver. Audible alarms are used to warn those nearby to get out of harm’s way. Conventional, single-tone, backup alarms are the most prevalent on worksites across B.C. However, broadband alarms (BBA) – a technology relatively new to B.C. – are gaining popularity. But, few studies have evaluated the effect BBAs have on worker safety. This session presents results from a recent survey illustrating broadband alarms capture attention but interpretations of what the alarm means are irresolute highlighting the need for additional work in this area to prevent incidents involving reversing vehicles.


Heather has a BSc. in Kinesiology and Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON and a MSc. in Human Factors and System Safety, Lund University, Sweden.

As part of Human Factors team at WorkSafeBC, Heather speaks to the Human Factors Incident Investigation Methodology, Resilience, and Human and Organizational Performance influences. Heather's current projects include overseeing a province-wide fatigue risk management initiative, research into the system-level approaches to mitigate risk related to reversing incidents as well as providing education and consultation services as a subject matter expert to the Investigations Division and employers across BC.

Before 2006, still at WSBC, Heather worked with Prevention officers and employers to prevent musculoskeletal injuries and implement ergonomics initiatives.

Before joining WorkSafeBC in 1994, Heather worked as an Ergonomist at Inco Metals in Sudbury, ON; the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers in Hamilton, ON; Northern Telecom in Calgary, AB and BC Hydro in Burnaby, BC.

In 2013, Jenny Colman and Heather published a paper in the Journal of Human Performance in Extreme Environments, "Is Performance Variability Necessary? A Qualitative Study on Cognitive Resilience in Forestry Work". In this paper, the traditional view of safety and the resilience/Safety II perspective are contrasted.

Heather is passionate about advancing safety and preventing incidents with the human factors and system safety approach. This is the most meaningful work she has ever had the opportunity to live and teach.

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