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Ergonomics for the jetset

I have learnt a new word whilst surfing my way around the internet: ergonomics.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as 'the study of the relationship between people and their working environment'. A Google search for ergonomics offers a mind-boggling 29.7million pages.

This wealth of information is truly amazing and it's reassuring to discover that health and safety professionals are working hard to improve the lot of the workforce.

On offer is a host of opportunities to improve your knowledge of the subject. There's a three-day national conference in Nottingham next year for £717 or, if you really want to broaden your horizons, why not attend the international version at Caesars Palace, Las Vagas in December? Just $900 will buy you a 'premium pass' (includes online discount).

The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) is holding its 50th Annual General Meeting in San Francisco this year. This one's a real bargain - $625 per person - but, sadly, you've just missed a four-day get-together in Maastricht (Netherlands) where the 16th World Congress on Ergonomics was meeting. That cost £580.

With all this worldwide jetsetting, I hope the ergonomics of the aircraft have been thoroughly checked out. Maybe everyone is travelling first class in the interest of safety.

The only time I heard the word during my fifty years of gameful employment was in relation to the seating position of office workers, the layout of their desks and general surroundings - lighting levels and the like.

Having trawled through the conference programmes, nothing seems to be changing. The agendas include debates, speeches and strategies for ergonomics in offices, call centres, laboratories as well as retail and wholesale environments. All worthy endeavours but if so much time, effort and expenditure can be invested in these areas, why not broaden the discussions to include a long and detailed examination of the area of land alongside the running line, formally known as the cess? The relationship between it and the people trying to use it merits close attention.
...why not broaden the discussions to include a long and detailed examination of the area of land alongside the running line, formally known as the cess?

The safety industry (yes, that’s what it is) is full of its own self-importance. Littered with highly-paid employees, the tail is now wagging the dog. Worldwide, the mountains of money spent on safety gatherings exceeds the national debt of some countries.

And yet railwaymen still have to stumble around at the side of the track.

Perhaps I've simply overlooked references to the railway amongst Google's 30million offerings. Or could it be that the health and safety globetrotters are too busy enjoying the comfortable surroundings of their conference suite to worry about the threat to life experienced by the legion of railway trackworkers?

Story added 1st August 2006

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