Workspace design: The role of ergonomist

Publication: Research - peer-reviewArticle in proceedings – Annual report year: 2004

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This paper reflects upon several case studies on the social shaping of workplaces. The cases were originally studied as cases of technological change processes in which ergonomists or other workplace professionals tried to influence the change process in order to integrate ergonomics considerations. In this reflective study the cases were reconsidered as workspace design processes. The concept of workspace design includes work processes and physical workplaces, and additionally the organizational ‘spaces’ in which these are being designed as a result of interaction between several actors. Hence, the theoretical starting point of the reflective study was based on actor-network theory and the social construction of technology (SCOT) approach (eg Latour 1987; Bijker 1995). That starting point was supplemented with theories and models developed within the tradition of user oriented design introducing concepts like ‘process architecture’, ‘design game’ and ‘design inquiry’ (Horgen et al. 1999). The reflective study was crosscutting several case studies including the development of: - new check-in desks in an airport - a continuous process wok for the food industry - a new facility for purification of insulin - redesign of work processes in a logistic department - a new cleaning facility for airplane brakes - a new clean room facility for assembling medical devices Across those cases focus was put on two sorts of actors: those trying to play the role of workspace designers (‘process architects’), and those designing workplaces without recognizing the role as workspace designers. In the check-in desk case, an OHS ergonomist tried to become a workspace designer in an overall design process. Due to ‘interpretative flexibility’ - different actors give different meanings to the artefact - it was possible for the OHS ergonomist to introduce work environment into the shaping of the check-in desk when access to the arena of change had been gained. The actor-network included different actor positions (interests) and ‘object worlds’ (professional knowledge and competence), which forced the OHS ergonomist to ‘choose’ a strategy for influencing the shape of the design object. To achieve support and gain allies for her ideas about the check-in desk, the consultant had to act as a ‘political reflective navigator’. Also, she had to act as a ‘boundary spanner’ and facilitator between the different object worlds in the design process, e.g. employees, management, consultants, and authorities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorking Life Ethics
EditorsOlsen,K.B.; Teller,O.J.
PublisherNordic Ergonomics Society
Publication date2004
StatePublished

Conference

ConferenceNordic Ergononmics Society
CityKolding
Period05/11/29 → …
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