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The Human Factor.

Ergonomics, sometimes referred to as human factors engineering, was first defined in 1857 by Wojciech Jasrzboski, a Polish scholar, philosopher and naturalist. Ergonomics is the appropriate assignment and interface of functions for humans, machines and environments. Concern about ergonomics exploded after World War II when workplace environment issues surfaced as women returned home from factories and men filled positions in the growing industrial complex.

Today, both women and men carry out jobs using technology that can both help and harm them, from construction workers using automatic nail guns to office workers using computer keyboards, with myriad variations in between.

Fifty-eight percent of the world's population spends one-third of their adult life at work. The work environment can have a positive or negative impact on individual and collective well-being. Risk managers can employ ergonomic solutions to enhance worker safety, keep productivity stable and ensure their company's financial good health.

Risk managers looking for information, products, services or other assistance to transform their company workplaces into safe, healthy, employee-friendly and ergonomically-correct environments can find help on the Web. We've put together a few general sites of interest to help facilitate your search.

In the United States, OSHA, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, enforces workplace safety standards and regulations by inspecting industrial facilities for hazardous chemical and toxic waste violations and protects worker health by fielding employee complaints about unsafe working conditions. (www.osha.gov)

"Global Strategy on Occupational Health for All," published by the World Health Organization, outlines strategies for improving working conditions worldwide. The document, available online, includes "Situation analysis for health at work and development of the global working life", "Strengthening of international and national policies for health at work and development of policy tools"; and "Principles of occupational health and safety." (www.ccohs.ca/who/contents.htm)

Health Canada's Environmental Health Program in the Office of the Health Directorate assesses and manages health risks at work and home, in both the natural and technological environments. The site provides information and assistance on the following specific topics: chemical hazards; product safety; radiation protection; tobacco control; and environmental health assessments. (www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ehp)

The Center for Office Technology (COT) is a coalition of employers, manufacturers and associations dedicated to improving the office environment and promoting informed approaches to computers and office technology. On COT's Web site, you can find research and litigation outcome reports about repetitive motion/stress injuries, musculoskeletal disorders and ergonomic standards. In addition, information on ergonomics conferences and awards is included. (www.cot.org)

For those who conceive, design, develop, manufacture, test, manage and participate in systems in the ergonomics and human factors profession, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) is a worthwhile organization. The society's Web page offers information on membership, publications and job placement. HFES' mission is to promote research and the exchange of knowledge concerning the characteristics of human beings that are applicable to the design of systems and devices. (hfes.org)

Ergoweb offers volumes of free ergonomics information to a worldwide audience. The company also provides a subscription service for ergonomic job evaluation, analysis, design and redesign software. Ergoweb, through its Ergobuyer[TM] service, provides "Economics Through Ergonomics," with products and services designed to enhance the safety and health of today's workers while improving balance sheets. (www.ergoweb.com)

The University of Louisville's Center for Industrial Ergonomics focuses on integrating people, organizations and technology at work and improving quality and productivity through ergonomics and safety management. The Center's Web site provides links to several definitive international works on ergonomics, as well as to the International Ergonomics Association (IEA). (www.louisville.edu/speed/ergonomics)

OSHWEB's ergonomic/human factors page offers a random listing of links from "Amara's RSI Page," an essay by a woman living with repetitive stress injury, to "Bad Human Factors Design," a scrapbook of examples of bad ergonomic designs, to "carpaltunnel.com," a guide to industrial research on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and treatments for the condition. (www-iea.me.tut.fi/cgi-bin/wilma.pl/erghf)
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Author:SCHROEDER, STEPHANIE
Publication:Risk Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 1999
Words:665
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