I had the opportunity to attend Richard Wells’ Kin 160 Ergonomics in Industry class this past week and was treated to a variety of demonstrations which gave me a flavour of what ergonomics is all about.
During the last week of class, the students were able to apply what they had learned about factors ranging from furniture to noise and lighting, by using that knowledge to promote well being and system performance in the design of a call centre. In class, we had a chance to ’feel’ what the various recommendations were like. We tried reading at various light levels; we measured the light level in the classroom to see how it compared to the recommended value; we noted the classroom temperature and compared it to the recommended value. We also got a sense of what it was like to carry on conversations in a number of work place settings by talking at a normal level with our neighbours while various recordings of different noise levels were played ranging from factory noise to household noise. We also ‘heard’ how pink noise could improve the noise levels in work environments.
Demonstrations during the lectures are not new for this class. I looked at the Kin 160 UW-ACE site and
read some of the weekly blogs that Richard posts for his class and found that the Candy Factory clip from the ‘I LOVE LUCY’ show had been used to ‘sum up some of the worst outcomes of poor job design and work organization.’
The students then participated in their own assembly line process of ‘writing a letter to Santa’ exercise which illustrated how one person could become overloaded while others had plenty of rest time. The Demand/Control Model was used to assess this situation and demonstrate ‘how important job design is to create system performance and human well being.’
Students also are given the opportunity to provide examples which reinforce what they are learning in the class by submitting photos of good and bad ergonomics design.
Throughout the term, Richard has used demonstrations to show how ergonomics concepts are applicable to most work and leisure activities. When you can actually experience to some extent the impacts of good and bad ergonomics design, you’re better able to describe the impact of ergonomic design on people’s health and performance, and from experience can describe how and why this can occur which, it so happens, is one of the course objectives!
One of Richard’s final blogs for the course encourages students to pay attention to ergonomics in their everyday life, ‘Make sure you use the ideas to improve your own well being and performance… there is now good evidence that university age people are developing chronic musculoskeletal problems from their academic computer use and setting themselves up for reoccurrences of these problems; remember, primary prevention is the way to go.’ Learning a lot easier when you can see how you benefit directly from the knowledge.