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Laurig, Wolfgang

Laurig, Wolfgang

Address: Department of Ergonomics, Institut für Arbeitsphysiologie (IfADo), Universität Dortmund, Ardeystrasse 67, 44139 Dortmund

Country: Germany

Phone: 49 231 108 4361

Fax: 49 231 108 4402

E-mail: laurig@arb-phys.uni-dortmund.de

Education: Dipl Ing, 1965, TH Darmstadt

Areas of interest: Occupational physiology; expert systems on ergonomics; work design

Monday, 07 March 2011 18:46

Overview

In the 3rd edition of the ILO’s Encyclopaedia, published in 1983, ergonomics was summarized in one article that was only about four pages long. Since the publication of the 3rd edition, there has been a major change in emphasis and in understanding of interrelationships in safety and health: the world is no longer easily classifiable into medicine, safety and hazard prevention. 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. One direct economical measure of productivity—the costs of absenteeism through illness—is affected by 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. Occupational medicine’s goal is to establish conditions under which the probability of developing such diseases is minimized. Using ergonomic principles these conditions can be most easily formulated in the form of demands and load limitations. Occupational medicine can be summed up as establishing “limitations through medico-scientific studies”. 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. Traditional ergonomics could then be described as developing “corrections through scientific studies”, where “corrections” are understood to be all work design recommendations that call for attention to be paid to load limits only in order to prevent health hazards. It is a characteristic of such corrective recommendations that practitioners are finally left alone with the problem of applying them—there is no multidisciplinary team effort.

The original aim of inventing ergonomics in 1857 stands in contrast to this kind of “ergonomics by correction”:

... a scientific approach enabling us to reap, for the benefit of ourselves and others, the best fruits of life’s labour for the minimum effort and maximum satisfaction (Jastrzebowski 1857).

The root of the term “ergonomics” stems from the Greek “nomos” meaning rule, and “ergo” meaning work. One could propose that ergonomics should develop “rules” for a more forward-looking, prospective concept of design. In contrast to “corrective ergonomics”, the idea of prospective ergonomics is based on applying ergonomic recommendations which simultaneously take into consideration profitability margins (Laurig 1992).

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. In other words, prospective ergonomics means searching for alternatives in work design which prevent fatigue and exhaustion on the part of the working subject in order to promote human productivity (“... for the benefit of ourselves and others”). 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 1992).

Based on this understanding, the Ergonomics chapter in the 4th edition of the ILO Encyclopaedia covers the different clusters of knowledge and experiences oriented toward worker characteristics and capabilities, and aimed at an optimum use of the resource “human work” by making work more “ergonomic”, that is, more humane.

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. “Designing for everyone” puts special emphasis on an ergonomic approach that is based on the characteristics and capabilities of the worker, a concept often overlooked in practice. 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 Units, and virtually all chapters in the sections Accident and Safety Management and Management and Policy.

 

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Contents

Preface
Part I. The Body
Blood
Cancer
Cardiovascular System
Physical, Chemical, and Biological Hazards
Digestive System
Mental Health
Mood and Affect
Musculoskeletal System
Nervous System
Renal-Urinary System
Reproductive System
Respiratory System
Sensory Systems
Skin Diseases
Systematic Conditions
Part II. Health Care
First Aid & Emergency Medical Services
Health Protection & Promotion
Occupational Health Services
Part III. Management & Policy
Disability and Work
Education and Training
Case Studies
Ethical Issues
Development, Technology, and Trade
Labour Relations and Human Resource Management
Resources: Information and OSH
Resources, Institutional, Structural and Legal
Community level
Regional and National Examples
International, Government and Non-Governmental Safety and Health
Work and Workers
Worker's Compensation Systems
Topics In Workers Compensation Systems
Part IV. Tools and Approaches
Biological Monitoring
Epidemiology and Statistics
Ergonomics
Goals, Principles and Methods
Physical and Physiological Aspects
Organizational Aspects of Work
Work Systems Design
Designing for Everyone
Diversity and Importance of Ergonomics
Occupational Hygiene
Personal Protection
Record Systems and Surveillance
Toxicology
General Principles of Toxicology
Mechanisms of Toxicity
Toxicology Test Methods
Regulatory Toxicology
Part V. Psychosocial and Organizational Factors
Psychosocial and Organizational Factors
Theories of Job Stress
Prevention
Chronic Health Effects
Stress Reactions
Individual Factors
Career Development
Macro-Organizational Factors
Job Security
Interpersonal Factors
Factors Intrinsic to the Job
Organizations and Health and Safety
Part VI. General Hazards
Barometric Pressure Increased
Barometric Pressure Reduced
Biological Hazards
Disasters, Natural and Technological
Electricity
Fire
Heat and Cold
Hours of Work
Indoor Air Quality
Indoor Environmental Control
Lighting
Noise
Radiation: Ionizing
Radiation: Non-Ionizing
Vibration
Violence
Visual Display Units
Part VII. The Environment
Environmental Health Hazards
Environmental Policy
Environmental Pollution Control
Part VIII. Accidents and Safety Management
Accident Prevention
Audits, Inspections and Investigations
Safety Applications
Safety Policy and Leadership
Safety Programs
Part IX. Chemicals
Using, Storing and Transporting Chemicals
Minerals and Agricultural Chemicals
Metals: Chemical Properties and Toxicity
Part X. Industries Based on Biological Resources
Agriculture and Natural Resources Based Industries
Farming Systems
Food and Fibre Crops
Tree, Bramble and Vine Crops
Specialty Crops
Beverage Crops
Health and Environmental Issues
Beverage Industry
Fishing
Food Industry
Overview and Health Effects
Food Processing Sectors
Forestry
Hunting
Livestock Rearing
Lumber
Paper and Pulp Industry
Major Sectors and Processes
Disease and Injury Patterns
Part XI. Industries Based on Natural Resources
Iron and Steel
Mining and Quarrying
Oil Exploration and Distribution
Power Generation and Distribution
Part XII. Chemical Industries
Chemical Processing
Examples of Chemical Processing Operations
Oil and Natural Gas
Pharmaceutical Industry
Rubber Industry
Part XIII. Manufacturing Industries
Electrical Appliances and Equipment
Metal Processing and Metal Working Industry
Smelting and Refining Operations
Metal Processing and Metal Working
Microelectronics and Semiconductors
Glass, Pottery and Related Materials
Printing, Photography and Reproduction Industry
Woodworking
Part XIV. Textile and Apparel Industries
Clothing and Finished Textile Products
Leather, Fur and Footwear
Textile Goods Industry
Part XV. Transport Industries
Aerospace Manufacture and Maintenance
Motor Vehicles and Heavy Equipment
Ship and Boat Building and Repair
Part XVI. Construction
Construction
Health, Prevention and Management
Major Sectors and Their Hazards
Tools, Equipment and Materials
Part XVII. Services and Trade
Education and Training Services
Emergency and Security Services
Emergency and Security Services Resources
Entertainment and the Arts
Arts and Crafts
Performing and Media Arts
Entertainment
Entertainment and the Arts Resources
Health Care Facilities and Services
Ergonomics and Health Care
The Physical Environment and Health Care
Healthcare Workers and Infectious Diseases
Chemicals in the Health Care Environment
The Hospital Environment
Health Care Facilities and Services Resources
Hotels and Restaurants
Office and Retail Trades
Personal and Community Services
Public and Government Services
Transport Industry and Warehousing
Air Transport
Road Transport
Rail Transport
Water Transport
Storage
Part XVIII. Guides
Guide to Occupations
Guide to Chemicals
Guide to Units and Abbreviations