Ergonomics done right.®
May 1st, 2012

Now That Rings A Bell! (Ergonomics in the Belfry)

by Kevin Perdeaux, CPE

On a trip to Belgium last week, I had the opportunity to tour a large church bell tower, called the belfry of Bruges. An enduring 366-stepbelfry of Bruges climb to the top was welcomed by a contrast of cold, windy rain and the most magnificent-sounding bells I have ever heard. The coolest part was being up close to watch the 26 bells ring for an extended period of time.

The bells are part of a system of levers and wires that connect to metal clappers which strike the bells creating the sound. Known as a carillon, the bells are played serially to make a melody or sounded together to play a chord. What I didn’t realize until I began my descent was that the carillon was being manually orchestrated by a carollineur, who was in a room just below the bells. Although most observers were awestruck by his craft of striking the keys (or batons) that mechanically activate the bells, I was drawn to his height-adjustable stool. (Do you see the hand-crank mechanism?)

I laughed to myself at the irony of the use of ergonomic equipment in a 800-year-old tower when even the most modern facilities today often lack this level of ergonomic consideration. Does anyone else have examples of new ergonomic design integrated with historical work environments?