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The evolution of Ergonomics

Vincent Cotto
Vincent Cotto
-Dec 05, 2022

The term Ergonomics comes from the Greek words Ergon, meaning work, and Nomos, meaning law. According to the International Ergonomic Association (2017), Ergonomics is defined as the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.

Ergonomics was first used in 1857 by Professor Wojciech Jastrzebowski in Poland, but it was not until a 1949 meeting of the British Admiralty in which the term Ergonomics was proposed, and then officially accepted in 1950. After formally being accepted and recognized, the British Ergonomic Society was formed in 1952, and the Human Factors Society shortly thereafter was formed in 1957 in the United States. (Pandve, 2017)

Despite these key milestones in the 1800s and 1900s, the concepts of Ergonomics have been around as long as the human species has. Our ancestors selected and invented tools to accomplish necessary tasks to survive. Fast forward hundreds of years, tools have been redesigned and enhanced with efficiency in mind to make work easier, as well as safer.

The Industrial Revolution was one of the first big booms for Ergonomics. Manual labor was essential during this time as the advancements in technology we have today were not available. Early Ergonomics pioneers evaluated manual tasks to find easier ways to complete those tasks, with a focus on standardization and job process simplification to eliminate non-value-added steps to improve production and efficiency; these are considered some of the first traditional ergonomic assessments. (Pandve, 2017)

The field of Ergonomics continued to grow during and immediately following World War II; the focus of Ergonomics shifted from overall production and efficiency to also include worker safety. Research in the field of Ergonomics started to grow to incorporate applied biomechanics and physiology to understand the impact of work on the individual. Muscular forces, physiological responses, perceived rates of exertion, and other cognitive loads began to be of interest to Ergonomics researchers to minimize exposure to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). (Ergoweb LLC, 2017)

For many years, physical assessments have served as a staple and focus of the Ergonomics industry. The NIOSH Lifting Equation, Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA), Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA), Job Strain Index, and numerous other physical assessments have been conducted manually for many years, but with the emergency of technology, the field of Ergonomics has seen incredible strides in terms of innovation and the ability to perform these same assessments. 

We have seen the emergence of improved robotics and automated solutions, the adoption of human modeling and simulation tools, and even the implementation of both active and passive exoskeletons. A new wave of technology and innovation in the Ergonomics industry is in the form of wearable technology, motion capture, and artificial intelligence.

Wearable technology devices have become popular additions to the workforce in warehousing, manufacturing, and many other industries. These devices allow for easy tracking of data surrounding biomechanics and postures, repetitive motion, personal protective equipment (PPE), lone worker/employee down alerting, environmental temperature, forklift and vehicle driving, as well as contact tracing and social distancing.

Motion capture and artificial intelligence are emerging as players in the Ergonomics space as well due to the ability to perform industry accepted evaluations efficiently. There are various motion capture and artificial intelligence products that require manual video capturing, uploading, and performing manual inputs based on each video’s operational details to retrieve an evaluation score and risk level. Even more on the cutting edge, there are 24/7 monitoring solutions with prebuilt rules and rely on computer vision and machine learning to minimize manual inputs.

At Intenseye, our platform can perform 24/7 monitoring, see the unseen, and perform Ergonomic assessments and evaluations in real time without the historical manual interaction. Intenseye allows for Ergonomic exposures to be captured, proactively, without the reliance on incident reporting to trigger an assessment of the operation of interest.

What sets Intenseye apart?

Functionality – Able to utilize existing 2D CCTV camera systems to evaluate an unlimited number of subjects at once with an understanding of 3D space.   

Scalability – Cost structured by facility, not on per user/per license basis that restricts organization-wide coverage.

Efficiency – See the unseen, 24/7, without the need for manual collection & uploads.

Accuracy – Reliable computer vision and artificial intelligence that is validated by our team of data operations experts.

Proactiveness – No prior incident, loss trending, or near-miss reporting is needed prior to assessment. Continuous monitoring allows for exposures to be captured as they occur.

Reporting – Access to an interactive dashboard that allows end users to slice and dice data to their operational preferences.

Action Tracking – Ability to plan immediate actions within the dashboard, and track reductions in exposures following completion of actions.

Intenseye enables users to cast a wider net to minimize their Ergonomic exposures by providing a scalable, efficient, and accurate solution that will provide health and safety professionals with actionable data to send their workforce home the way they came to work.

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References

  1. International Ergonomics Association (IEA) (2017) Definition and Domains of Ergonomics.
  1. Pandve, H. T. (2017). Historical milestones of ergonomics: from ancient human to modern human. J Ergonomics, 7, e169.
  1. History of ergonomics. Ergoweb LLC. (2017, March 28). Retrieved November 28, 2022, from https://ergoweb.com/history-of-ergonomics/ 
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