Participatory Ergonomics in Practice: An Evaluation of Three Methods for Supporting End-User Participation in the Development and Choice of Technical Equipment
The studies included in this thesis have been carried out in three different organisations: a car assembly plant with a new production system based on group organisation; in a car assembly plant with a traditional assembly line; and, in a traditional hospital organisation. A common problem for the three organisations was that there was insufficient dialogue between the end-users of the technical equipment used in the work place and the 'in-house' engineers working with the development or purchase of this equipment.
The aims of this thesis were to evaluate whether and how different methods adapted to the contexts of use could encourage and strengthen end-user participation and dialogue between end-users and in-house engineers in three different organisations. In particular the aim was to evaluate three methods; a co-education programme, experimental learning in hand ergonomics, and a combination of focus groups and usability tests. The specific questions were whether the methods could: 1) raise the end-users' and the in-house engineers' critical thinking and awareness when developing and choosing equipment for the work place, 2) create a common frame of reference for such dialogue, and 3) improve dialogue between end-users and in-house engineers.
Results from the studies showed that all three methods succeeded in increasing awareness and critical thinking and created a common frame of reference. However, in order to improve dialogue between end-users and in-house engineers the results show that co-efforts, such as co-experiences of lectures, practical exercises, development projects, and focus group were also important. Face-to-face meetings are needed between end-users and in-house engineers when identifying and specifying user requirements on technical equipment as was the case in the co-education programme and the combination of focus groups and usability tests. Furthermore, method(s) used in order to develop and strengthen dialogue between end-users and in-house engineers must be integrated in the organisation's process for development and/or purchase. Only when the method(s) is integrated as a way of working continuos end-user participation is supported.