The Ergonomics Report

November 27, 2012

A Brief, Incomplete, Possibly Inaccurate History of Ergonomics … or Human Factors

In a broad sense, ergonomics is as old as humankind, or at least some point long ago in human history. Many trace its origins to that day when the first human realized that a sharp rock or a pointy stick was useful as a tool. Whoever it was, whenever it was, found a way to improve upon human capabilities by creating a tool. Peter Budnick traces those humble beginnings forward, highlighting key developments through history that have lead to what we recognize today as Ergonomics ... or Human Factors ... or whatever it is we do ... or whatever it is we call it ...
November 7, 2012

Revisiting The Infamous Hawthorne Effect

Peter Budnick reviews a fascinating article describing and analyzing newly rediscovered archives from the original Hawthorne experiments that took place in the late 1920's. The experiments were intended to demonstrate that better lighting would improve industrial productivity, but a variety of factors produced unexpected results, and the original data was thought to be destroyed in the aftermath. The so called Hawthorne Effect has been a subject of debate and speculation ever since and has influenced scientific methods and the fields of psychology, education, social sciences -- and ergonomics. Cornell researchers Izawa, French and Hedge share their findings.
October 31, 2012

It’s Time to Put an End to Abusive Design

Ergoweb's Peter Budnick shares his anger with what he sees as "abusive design," using the incomprehensible interface of an AT&T telephone his aging parents purchased as an example. Quoting Jack Rebney, a man described as "The Angriest Man in the World," he launches his controlled tirade with the phrase "I wonder how you're going to feel about this when you're [swear word deleted] 80 years old." He describes the conditions under which abusive designs make it to market, as well as the conditions that lead to usable customer-centered designs by drawing parallels with Lean organizational methods, and closes with an open-ended call for change.
October 17, 2012

New Anthropometry Study of Truck Drivers Will Improve Cab Design and Road Safety

A recent research article summarizing a study designed to update the anthropometry data for US based truck drivers reveals some interesting statistics about truck driver size and safety, and also brings to light the fact that ergonomists and designers often don't have accurate data, even if such data is critical to a design outcome. In this article Peter Budnick reviews the study and also shares some thoughts on the importance of human-centered design, up-to-date anthropometry data, as well as new developments in the way it is used to create more accommodating designs.
October 9, 2012

MSD Checklist Reliability and Validity for Ergonomics Practitioners

In this reprint from The Ergonomics Report Archives, guest contributor Thomas J. Albin writes, "Checklists come in all forms and shapes: they may be self-developed, public or proprietary. We may call them surveys, risk identification forms, screening tools, assessment tools, or something else, but their purpose is to identify risk factors that put jobs 'at-risk'. Some checklists may have been validated for various contexts of use, others not at all ... we need to manage the use of checklists ... by collecting information on their reliability and validity just as one would gather information to manage any other manufacturing process. This can be done simply and dynamically by any practitioner in a way that is specific to the worksite for which they are responsible."
October 4, 2012

Response: A Strategy for Human Factors/Ergonomics as a Discipline and Profession

Spurred to write by our recent article, "A Strategy for Human Factors/Ergonomics as a Discipline and Profession (Reprint)," guest contributor Kieran Duignan offers his thought provoking ideas on why, "... regrettably the strategy paper by Jan Dul and others ... is unlikely to go near to where its authors aspire," because, "their aspirations for the HFE community ... fail to even mention the core challenge facing all forms of business and organisational consulting now, namely building trust with stakeholders." Duignan proposes a macroergonomics approach with a focus on the ergonomics community improving its collective "social intelligence."
September 18, 2012

Effect of Chair Designs on Sitting Tissue Pressure and Perfusion

Ergoweb's Peter Budnick reviews a recently published study comparing 5 office chair designs. As he explains, "I found it challenging to sift through the results section and piece together a coherent description of their findings ... this article kept making me ask more questions than it was answering." He also uncovers a connection to same or similar research referenced as a 2008 study, describing benefits of a specific chair by a specific manufacturer, leaving him with additional questions and prompting him to reach out to the researchers and the manufacturer for additional background and interpretation. This article will be continued ...
August 14, 2012

The Complex Spine: Understanding and Preventing Low Back Pain and Disorders

Peter Budnick reviews an important research article written by well-known ergonomics researcher William Marras. In this seminal paper, Marras summarizes the state of our understanding of the factors that contribute to low back pain and disorders, charts a course for future research, and recommends that ergonomics practitioners, among other things, take a broader systems approach that goes beyond traditional physical loading risk analysis to include mental and wellness components. According to Marras, "... one needs to consider the social, occupational, spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional, financial, mental, and medical aspects of the environment if one is to truly minimize the risk of low-back problems."
August 2, 2012

Research: A Circadian Rhythms Based Work Scheduling for High Voltage Live Line Electricians

Brazilian researchers Buarque de Macedo Guimar
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