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Protecting Worker Health with Erogonomics Guidelines

Ergonomics promotes work environments that suit individual abilities and limitations. Voluntary consensus guidelines on the scientific discipline of ergonomics have been drafted by members of Subcommittee E34.85 on Ergonomics, part of ASTM Committee E34 on Occupational Health and Safety. The proposal is being reviewed by over 70 ergonomics professionals, including representatives of industry, universities, consultants, and suppliers. Additional participation is welcomed.

Dennis R. Ankrum, an ergonomist who chairs the subcommittee, said typical users of the proposed guidelines will be engineers, industrial designers, and other planners of occupational space. “Designing jobs that conform to the capabilities and limitations of workers will result in increased productivity,” said Ankrum, director of Human Factors Research, Nova Solutions, Inc., Effingham, Ill.

Ergonomics was a buzzword in recent legislation before Congress. “The recently repealed OSHA standard was not an ergonomic standard,” Ankrum explained. “It was a standard to reduce work-related musculoskeletal injuries. Ergonomics is much broader than injuries. Good ergonomic design means matching jobs to the capabilities and limitations of the workers. While fewer injuries would be expected, the real benefit to business is an increase in productivity.”

Neglecting ergonomics can lead to physical deterioration of workers’ bodies over time, although ergonomic solutions can be inexpensive. The proposed ASTM guide states that it is “intended to assist those involved in the design, installation, operation, modification, or maintenance of occupational systems, with integration of ergonomics into those systems... Because jobs and tasks that exceed human capabilities and limitations can not be performed correctly, efficiently, properly, or consistently, the application of ergonomics to outcome and process development will help avoid system inefficiencies, wastes, and the costs created by these.”

The comprehensive draft guide covers benefits, application and use methodology, process evaluation, analysis, and more.

To participate in this activity, or obtain further technical information, contact Dennis R. Ankrum, Human Factors Research, Nova Solutions, Inc., Effingham, Ill. (phone: 512/263-5575). Committee E34 meets Nov. 4-5 in Dallas. For meeting or membership details, contact Maxine Topping, manager, ASTM Technical Committee Operations (phone: 610/ 832-9737). //

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