Fall ergo conference

Carrie and Karen will be heading to Montreal in October to present five papers. (“Conference” does not equal “break” for us!) Here’s what we’ll be talking about at the annual ACE conference. (Check out the conference at http://www.ace-ergocanada.ca/index.php?contentid=1054.)

The impact of design for average: Despite our understanding that we must design for the “limiting user” and offer adjustability wherever possible, ergonomists are often persuaded to provide specifications that accommodate “average” anthropometrics. Designers and clients often seek simple, fixed-height designs, suited to an average worker, to meet the economic demand for lowest cost design. This paper presents a case study where a workstation is designed for “an average” worker, to allow the evaluation of the impact of this decision on other worker populations.

Using the duty cycle equation: In 2012, Jim Potvin published a duty cycle equation that allows us to evaluate force demands based on frequency and duration of exposure. This paper reviews the use of Potvin’s duty cycle equation, in conjunction with a biomechanical model, in order to calculate a “risk index” for upper limb (shoulder, elbow, and wrist) and back musculoskeletal hazards. The paper also uses case studies to demonstrate how the equation can be used to evaluate job demands, to evaluate job rotation, and to evaluate potential interventions.

Shiftwork revisited: Shift work has been an industrial necessity since electricity lit way for work to be done after the sun set. In general, most people, given a choice, would elect to work during the day and sleep at night, the way our bodies were designed to function best. However, the economic reality is that factories need to run at night to be “competitive”, nurses need to take care of patients around the clock, and somebody needs to get up to give us the traffic report, long before any “zeitgebers” would cue us to wake naturally. Much research has been done regarding shift work and its effects on the human body. This paper reviews research, and provides recommendations for employers interested in reducing the risk of injuries and accidents that occur when people are required to work shifts.

Sit fit – Ergonomics for drivers: Professional drivers sit for prolonged periods of time, often in awkward postures. They may not know how to use the adjustability features of their vehicles, or what the optimal driving posture looks like. The “Sit-Fit” process involves educating the driver, and making recommendations to address the risk factors found.

Forging a common path for standard ergonomics practices: The profession of ergonomics promotes itself as a scientific body, with a creative component involved in optimizing human performance and well being (International Ergonomics Association). Certification provides minimum standards for education, experience and ethics, but does not set out standard practices for ergonomists. In Ontario, no standards exist to regulate who can practice ergonomics, although recent changes have begun to limit who can practice kinesiology. The practice is unregulated, and no quality standards exist. Ergonomics needs to advance from the “wild west”, where standards are lacking, to a more civilized, consistently-applied, objective science. This paper proposes a practice that would advance this cause.

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