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Industrial
Ergonomics
ELSEVIER International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics 15 (1995) 309-310

Introduction to Participatory Ergonomics

We are pleased to present this special issue on of making real differences in ergonomic research
participatory ergonomics in the International and interventions. We appreciate the fact that
Journal of Industrial Ergonomics. This compila- there are no "natural" publication outlets for
tion of papers is the result of the contributors' research and interventions of this type and appre-
hard work and patience with a process that is ciate the opportunity to contribute through the
often difficult to coordinate at the international International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics.
level. At the outset of this undertaking we hoped Several themes emerge from this group of di-
to achieve at least three goals. First, we wanted verse articles. First, participatory ergonomics pro-
to summarize the current developments in partic- vides value added beyond the practical and pow-
ipatory methods from around the world. One has erful contributions of traditional ergonomics
only to review proceedings from recent lEA con- across a wide range of situations, cultures and
gresses and other international meetings to real- problems. These papers describe different tools,
ize the significance of participatory ergonomics. techniques or analyses to channel participants'
Not only is the approach intuitively appealing and unique knowledge and skills to solve problems
practical, it appears to be successfully applied and make improvements. The absence of a singu-
internationally (see Noro and Imada, 1991). We lar "best-one-and-only" participatory practice
are pleased with the cross section and representa- speaks to the importance of the process rather
tion of different methodologies, locations and than any single event or approach. As Wilson
problems addressed. Second, our intent was to concludes, the outcomes of a participatory pro-
motivate other researchers and practitioners to cess may not produce results too different from
consider participatory methodologies in their the usual expert consultant intervention. What is
work. While the participatory approach seems different, however, is the effect on those who
quite effective, the exact reasons for its efficacy participate. Arguably, the most important out-
are less well understood (e.g., see Wagner, 1994). comes in the process include the improved own-
Therefore, more research about the conditions ership of the ergonomic ideas, the acceptance of
and reasons for effective participatory interven- the proposed solutions, the confidence and com-
tions are most welcome. At the practical level, petence to solve problems, satisfaction with the
more documentation of the effectiveness of par- outcome, and willingness to change. These out-
ticipatory methodologies across a wide range of comes are particularly beneficial in environments
problems and settings improves the robustness of where change is continuously driven by technol-
participatory ergonomics. Third, this topic ex- ogy, changing customer needs, quality initiatives
pands the scope of this journal to include a range (TQM) and competitive demands for continuous
of articles addressing cognitive, organizational, improvement.
physiological and psychosocial facets of er- A second theme addresses the need to expand
gonomics. We view this broader macroergonomic the scope of ergonomics from a singular microan-
perspective as the key to improving our chances alytic focus to a macroergonomic level. Er-

0169-8141/95/$09.50 1995 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved


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310 A.S. lmada, M. Nagamachi/ International Journal of lndustrial Ergonomics 15 (1995)309-310

gonomics alone cannot solve all the contemporary ventions described in this special issue raise ques-
issues we are asked to address. Without improved tions about how best to implement our technol-
organizational support, team processes, team ogy.
building, role definition, role clarity, communica- We are indebted to the authors and those who
tion, m a n a g e m e n t commitment and a supportive submitted papers to our request for this special
culture, our successes will be limited. Likewise issue. Our thanks to the reviewers and editors
our scope needs to be expanded beyond the phys- without whose assistance and patience this spe-
ical level and should begin to address the psy- cial issue would not have been possible.
chosocial and organizational facets of work. Ar-
guably, injuries and productivity advantages of
the future may be more dependent upon these References
macroergonomic variables than the physical as-
pect alone (Hales et al., 1992). This begs the need Corlett, N., 1988. The investigation and evaluation of work
and workplaces. In: A.S. Adams, R.R, Hall, B.J. McPhee
for ergonomics as a multidisciplinary field to con-
and M.S. Oxenburgh (Eds.), Ergonomics International 88,
tinuously define its frontiers. Ergonomics Society of Australia, Sydney.
Finally, independent of the ergonomic change, Hales, T. et al., 1992. Health Hazard Evaluation Report:
the articles in this special issue address the HETA 89-299-2230. U.S. West Communications. Cincin-
changing role of the ergonomist. Most in the field nati, OH: National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health.
can trace their academic lineage to a scientific
Norman, D.A., 1992. Where human factors fails: Ergonomics
tradition; one based on the scientific method and versus the world of design and manufacture. Arnold Small
dispassionate understanding of an orderable and Lecture in Safety. Presented at the 36th annual meeting of
knowable universe. Collectively, these articles ad- the Human Factors Society, Atlanta, GA.
dress a different dimension of our activity. It Noro, K. and Imada, A.S., 1991. Participatory Ergonomics.
London, Taylor & Francis.
suggests that perhaps our role should be an agent
Wagner, J.W., 1994. Participation's effects on performance
of change, a facilitator, or even a consultant. Or and satisfaction: A reconsideration of research evidence.
perhaps, as Corlett (1988) suggests, we need to Academy of Management Review, 19: 312-330.
become activists. More recently, Norman (1993)
has suggested that our role might be best thought
of as becoming "approximate scientists". What- Andrew S. lmada and Mitsuo Nagamachi
ever the role, the successful participatory inter- Special issue editors