Dr. Peter Budnick, President and CEO of Ergoweb Inc. delivered a plenary speech at the Computer-Aided Ergonomics and Safety Conference in Hawaii, July 30, 2001. The international conference brought researchers, educators, and businesses from around the world to share information and the latest developments in their work.
Dr. Budnick spoke about “Ergonomics and the Internet,” dividing his talk into the topics “Ergonomics on the Internet,” and “Ergonomics of the Internet.” He explained that searching the web alone reveals many hundreds of thousands of pages that contain variations on the word ergonomics. The task of sifting through all that material to find the quality, trustworthy information is the biggest challenge. “But,” he notes, “this challenge is really no different than the challenge we’ve always faced, whether the communication was by word of mouth, pamphlet, newspaper, journal, television, or any other information medium.”
His searching on the Internet turned up some references to ergonomics as “junk science” or “pseudo-science.” He warned the international audience that the word “ergonomics” was under attack in the United States, and that people with little or no knowledge of the science and application of this important field are incorrectly redefining it in a very negative way. “This,” he said, “is our own fault. We’ve allowed others who don’t understand what we do to speak on our behalf. Fortunately, it’s never too late for us to step up and inform the public, and I strongly encourage you all to do so.”
Budnick then turned to ergonomics on the Internet. “Everyone is hearing about the ‘dot-com crash,’ but few recognize that many of these business failures are a direct consequence of ignoring ergonomics principles?” Citing industry data from Forrester Research, he showed that much of the blame for failed websites is being placed on poor interface design.
“What they’re really saying is that those companies that ignored ergonomics in the design of web interfaces are now paying the price. The problem is, they don’t know what the word ergonomics means, so that never enters the debate. We had the answers all along, and we can now say ‘we told you so,’ but that’s of little value. Again, it’s our own fault for not better educating the public as to what we do, and how we can help. On the Internet, recognizing and applying ergonomics is not an option, it’s a necessity – it’s a survival tactic,” says Budnick.
Dr. Budnick’s next public speaking engagement is scheduled to take place September 14, 2001, at the HK Systems Material Handling Users’ Conference, were he will discuss recent OSHA activities in ergonomics, and share applied methods to save companies money through the application of ergonomics.