Ergonomics Infrastructure - An Organizational Roadmap to Improved Production Ergonomics
Improving production ergonomics is a pursuit common to many companies in different industrial sectors. At the core is an aspiration to eliminate risks for work-related musculo-skeletal disorders (MSDs), but modern views on ergonomics have evolved the discipline from a purely physiological, instrumental concern to an organizational, holistic systems-performance discipline (macroergonomics). This modern perspective implies that it is not enough to consider ergonomics as the domain of only ergonomics specialists; nor is it advisable to try improving it in isolation, without paying attention to the influences of the surrounding stakeholders and context.
This thesis proposes that the “ergonomics infrastructure” of an organization is made up of the structural, technical, organizational and stakeholder-relational conditions that enable or hinder improvement of ergonomics. These conditions focus on the positioning of different stakeholders towards ergonomics issues, the relations between stakeholders and strategies they use for persuasion, and the influences that arise from industry-specific culture, attitudes and procedural integration (or exclusion) of ergonomics into engineering processes. This in turn affects an organization’s tendency to handle ergonomics proactively (i.e. at the design stage) or reactively (in response to injury, discomfort and compensation claims). It was found that stakeholder influence and relational interactions are of particular importance to the implementation of ergonomics improvements. Ergonomics practitioners who are politically aware and are able to link ergonomics improvements to business and production benefits are best poised to advance an ergonomics agenda.
The knowledge gleaned from the work in this thesis has been synthesized, together with relevant theoretical concepts found in the literature, into a “Tentative Framework” which guides empirical data collection aimed at mapping the “ergonomics infrastructure” in an organization. Its step-by-step systematic review of conditions at different hierarchical levels in the organization should serve ergonomics practitioners and managers alike in identifying pathways and roadblocks to improving production ergonomics. This contributes to the branch of macroergonomics literature, which to date has placed little focus on day-to-day ergonomics practice and organizational-relational influences on ergonomics work.