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Research for the missing link

Date Released: Fri, 1 April 2011 16:05 +0200

Rhodes University is the first African University to host the 10th International Symposium on Human Factors in Organisational Design and Management (ODAM X). Taking place from 4 - 6 April in the Eden Grove Lecture Theater complex, the conference focuses on the human factor in the work environment.

A primary aim of the conference is to find common ground between and to match human capabilities and decent working conditions in the developing world with the productivity and efficiency goals of the corporate environment in the developed world.

Ergonomics is a relatively unknown area of study in South Africa. Given the context of South African labour law, in a country with an inordinately high unemployment rate, it is thus not only significant that the conference aims to help find a means to provide decent but productive work. It is also fitting that the conference is being hosted in Africa, thus demonstrating ODAM’s dedication to emerging countries.

Over 27 years of research into the macro-ergonomics approach to organisational design and management has resulted in a set of basic principles that informs change management in the workplace, including in the application of occupational health and safety guidelines, ergonomic product design, and ergonomics in hospitals and other diverse areas.

Today, the human factor receives much more attention than it did a decade or two ago and no change is put into place without the participation of the employees affected.

Although highly relevant in the industrially developed and corporate first world, in less developed countries ergonomics is still relatively young and most research is done in the area of micro-ergonomics. However, a macro-ergonomics approach is required to put these principles into practice. The conference is thus expected to contribute to local development in the field of ergonomics.

“Development in the so-called ‘emerging countries’ cannot be supported simply by applying established concepts and results from elsewhere,” says Professor Matthias Göbel, Rhodes Head of Human Kinetics & Ergonomics and ODAM X conference chair.

“Rather it requires a purposeful redevelopment of existing experiences for a particular context. On a macroscopic level, this includes linking industrially developing and industrially developed countries. ODAM X intends to put this into practice by providing a smart link between these very different socio-economic experiences and the varied academic contributions arising both from different regions and disciplines.”

With half of the delegates representing developing countries and the other half representing advanced countries, the conference has an equal focus on research arising out of both contexts. It also has a commitment to using this knowledge to tailor ergonomic solutions that fit the particular needs of each context.

About 170 international experts from all over the world, including the president of the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) and presidents of national ergonomics societies, will discuss recent research in the field of Macro-Ergonomics.

Rhodes is the only university in South Africa that offers Ergonomics as a course of study in its Department of Human Kinetics and Ergonomics. The University thus has a leading role to play in determining how human capability can best be harnessed by decent working conditions to attain higher corporate efficiency and productivity.

Find more information at www.odam2011.net

By Kerry Peter

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