Home Applied Ergonomics Keynote Mentions Aging and Obese Ergonomics Done Right®

Written by: humantech on March 23rd, 2011

by Christy Lotz, CPE

Dr. John Howard, Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) was the keynote speaker today at the Applied Ergonomics Conference.  He gave an energized talk about the future of the global workforce. Commenting on both the “chronologically gifted” and obese populations, he basically suggested that designing for ergonomics, aging, and obesity is inevitable and there is no avoiding it.  Our jobs as health and safety professionals will continue to address this.

In a discussion I had with Jen Lenhart, Senior Health & Safety Specialist at Whirlpool,  she already sees this happening. She is having to “fit the worker to the job” more often based on limited capacity or health issues with employees.  She mentioned that it is a difficult topic to address and discuss because it is basically a slap in the face to the American economy. But it is a reality that we should not ignore.

2 responses to “Applied Ergonomics Keynote Mentions Aging and Obese”

  1. Terence Kemble says:

    I work in the UK at a Caterpillar manufacturing assembly plant.My role involves undertaking Ergonomic assessments of the assembly processes. I use some of the Humantech tools for this purpose such as the NIOSH lifting equation, this tool gives us a RWL for most of the working population, however with people expectant to re-tire much later in life than they do currently both here in the UK and in the States what difference will this make to the Lifting equation and % of the population that could safety do the task as per RWL?

  2. Christy Lotz says:

    Hi Terence

    Thanks for the post and great question! I think that I have actually been to your assembly plant in the UK.

    When it comes to the NIOSH LE, the goal was to design for 75% of the female population. They did consider age and gender when coming up with the equation. For instance when considering aerobic capcity we know that older workers have a lower capacity than younger workers, and female workers have a lower capacity than male workers. Therefore they chose the 50th percentile 40-year old female data. That is quite conservative. Overall, even though the equation is stated to be based on MAWL (max. acceptable weight limit) for 75% of female population is is likely that it is closer to 90% so that is very conservative and should accomodate for the changes in aging population.

    That being said the retirement age keeps increasing (from 65 years to 74 years etc.) so you’re right that at some point we’re going to have to find a way to accomodate for decreasing in strength and aerobic capcity with age. Maybe it will be a multiplier that can be applied based on age brackets.

    If you would like to discuss further, feel free to contact me any time.

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