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Ergonomics action research I: shifting from hypothesis testing to experiential learning

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This paper presents the case for the need for ‘Action Research’ (AR) approaches to gain understanding of how ergonomics considerations can best be integrated into the design of new work systems. The AR researchers work collaboratively with other stakeholders to solve a real-world problem: gaining insight into the problem and factors influencing solution building from an embedded position in the development process. This experience is interpreted in terms of available theory and can support further theory development. This non-experimental approach can help provide practical new approaches for integrating ergonomics considerations into real work system design processes. The AR approach suffers from a lack of acceptance by conventionally trained scientists. This paper aims to help overcome this weakness by developing the underlying theory and rationale for using AR approaches in ergonomics research. We propose further development of hybrid approaches which incorporate other evaluation techniques to extend the knowledge gains from AR projects.

Practitioner Summary: Researchers should engage directly with organisations in ergonomics projects so that they can better understand the challenges and needs of practitioners who are trying to apply available scientific knowledge in their own unique context. Such ‘Action Research’ could help develop theory and approaches useful to improve mobilisation and application of ergonomics knowledge in organisations.
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Keywords: ergonomics intervention research; proactive human factors; science methodology; work system design

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Human Factors Engineering Lab, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering,Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada 2: School of Industrial Engineering and Management, The Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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