Ergonomics and equality
The challenges of bringing social inequalities into ergonomics analyses and what action ergonomists can take to address them are examined in new research looking at gender and ethnicity issues. Researchers from the University of Quebec in Canada looked at four case studies where ergonomists had to confront situations involving sexism or racism that was not covered in their training. Their review examines how each situation happened, what the ergonomist did and what could have been done differently.
The case studies showed how workplace issues related to sex, race and other forms of discrimination can affect job performance and workers’ health. And the researchers argued that solutions needed to pay more attention to teamwork, consider gender during ergonomics training, and develop a code of practice for ergonomics interventions. One recommendation was to look to other disciplines along with political and social thinkers to “gain a broad understanding of social determinants of work organisation”.
The report, published in the journal Ergonomics, stated: “It is appropriate for ergonomists to include sources of social inequity as objects of analysis and subjects of proposed solutions, since they affect both health and performance. But we caution that such interventions require great delicacy and should not be improvised.”