Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A proactive approach to ergonomics

Researching the concept of proactive ergonomics ...

"Picture yourself doing an all-nighter in your room. You've been typing for hours, and your wrists, arms and shoulders are just aching. Your chair and the layout of your desk aren't helping much, as they force you to hold your body and move your joints in an uncomfortable way.

Clearly, making some adjustments to how you sit and where you place your work items might help make the sore muscle situation better. But what if everything had already been arranged so that you never developed the problem in the first place?

That's the type of question that drives the research of Dr. Clark Dickerson, a kinesiology professor at UW. He calls it the "proactive" perspective, a rising trend in ergonomic studies that moves research away from case studies of problems and into the world of concepts. "In a reactive approach," Dickerson told Imprint in an interview, "once the problem has been identified, you try to fix the situation, usually of the work space. In a proactive approach you try to get it right the first time and avoid all the problems."

For Dickerson, who joined UW's department of kinesiology in 2005, that results in the creation of projects such as enabling advanced digital ergonomics and shoulder biomechanics research. The project uses digital technology and high-tech equipment to create and test virtual work environments using laboratory experiments and biomechanical computer models. By making simulated humans perform a variety of repeated tasks in these models, Dickerson and his team can see what musculoskeletal problems would arise as a result, and can adjust their models accordingly. The goal is to create safer work environments before they are even built, thus preventing certain musculoskeletal disorders from ever afflicting prospective workers. "Our work takes place at the intersection of kinesiology and engineering, as both fields are important," said Dickerson."    (Continued via Imprint)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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