The need for new approaches to natural resource management arises from the relatively new, problematic demands posed by the concept of sustainable development. This chapter examines these changes through the outcomes of two major United Nations conferences. The importance of information, integration and participation are noted.
Since the publication of the 3rd edition, there has been a major change in emphasis and in understanding of interrelationships in safety and health: In the last decade almost every branch in the production and service industries has expended great effort in improving productivity and quality.
This restructuring process has yielded practical experience which clearly shows that productivity and quality are directly related to the design of working conditions. Therefore it should be possible to increase productivity and quality and to avoid absenteeism by paying more attention to the design of working conditions.
In sum, the simple hypothesis of modern ergonomics can be stated thus: Pain and exhaustion cause health hazards, wasted productivity and reduced quality, which are measures of the costs and benefits of human work.
This simple hypothesis can be contrasted to occupational medicine which generally restricts itself to establishing the aetiology of occupational diseases.
Using ergonomic principles these conditions can be most easily formulated in the form of demands and load limitations. Traditional ergonomics regards its role as one of formulating the methods where, using design and work organization, the limitations established through occupational medicine can be put into practice.
The basic rules for the development of this approach can be deduced from practical experience and reinforced by the results of occupational hygiene and ergonomics research. This comprehensive approach of prospective ergonomics includes workplace and equipment design as well as the design of working conditions determined by an increasing amount of information processing and a changing work organization.
Prospective ergonomics is, therefore, an interdisciplinary approach of researchers and practitioners from a wide range of fields united by the same goal, and one part of a general basis for a modern understanding of occupational safety and health UNESCO The choice of topics and the structure of articles in this chapter follows the structure of typical questions in the field as practised in industry.
Beginning with the goals, principles and methods of ergonomics, the articles which follow cover fundamental principles from basic sciences, such as physiology and psychology. Based on this foundation, the next articles introduce major aspects of an ergonomic design of working conditions ranging from work organization to product design.
The importance and diversity of ergonomics is shown in two examples at the end of the chapter and can also be found in the fact that many other chapters in this edition of the ILO Encyclopaedia are directly related to ergonomics, such as Heat and Cold, Noise, Vibration, Visual Display Unitsand virtually all chapters in the sections Accident and Safety Management and Management and Policy.
Singleton Definition and Scope Ergonomics means literally the study or measurement of work. In this context, the term work signifies purposeful human function; it extends beyond the more restricted concept of work as labour for monetary gain to incorporate all activities whereby a rational human operator systematically pursues an objective.
Thus it includes sports and other leisure activities, domestic work such as child care and home maintenance, education and training, health and social service, and either controlling engineered systems or adapting to them, for example, as a passenger in a vehicle.
The human operator, the focus of study, may be a skilled professional operating a complex machine in an artificial environment, a customer who has casually purchased a new piece of equipment for personal use, a child sitting in a classroom or a disabled person in a wheelchair.
The human being is highly adaptable but not infinitely so. There are ranges of optimum conditions for any activity. Ergonomics examines not only the passive ambient situation but also the unique advantages of the human operator and the contributions that can be made if a work situation is designed to permit and encourage the person to make the best use of his or her abilities.
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Human abilities may be characterized not only with reference to the generic human operator but also with respect to those more particular abilities that are called upon in specific situations where high performance is essential.
For example, an automobile manufacturer will consider the range of physical size and strength of the population of drivers who are expected to use a particular model to ensure that the seats are comfortable, that the controls are readily identifiable and within reach, that there is clear visibility to the front and the rear, and that the internal instruments are easy to read.
Ease of entry and egress will also be taken into account. By contrast, the designer of a racing car will assume that the driver is athletic so that ease of getting in and out, for example, is not important and, in fact, design features as a whole as they relate to the driver may well be tailored to the dimensions and preferences of a particular driver to ensure that he or she can exercise his or her full potential and skill as a driver.
In all situations, activities and tasks the focus is the person or persons involved. It is assumed that the structure, the engineering and any other technology is there to serve the operator, not the other way round.
History and Status About a century ago it was recognized that working hours and conditions in some mines and factories were not tolerable in terms of safety and health, and the need was evident to pass laws to set permissible limits in these respects.
The determination and statement of those limits can be regarded as the beginning of ergonomics. They were, incidentally, the beginning of all the activities which now find expression through the work of the International Labour Organization ILO.
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