29 August, 2016
The day after this horrible bus crash at the Montague St Bridge, a truck ran into the exact same bridge. A week and a half later, another truck ran into the same bridge. As of May 2016, the bridge has been hit 102 times in the last six years. That’s more than once a month! It happens so often, there’s even a website tracking how many days since the bridge was last hit.
When a vehicle runs into a bridge, it’s easy to assume it’s an isolated incident and the driver simply wasn’t paying attention or something went wrong with the vehicle. However, when the same incident occurs with monotonous regularity, we need to look more deeply into what’s really going on.
In the case of the Montague Street Bridge, these are some of the things that could be assessed:
- signage in the immediate area around the bridge and the road leading up to it – are signs visible enough? Do the signs adequately communicate the risk quickly?
- are the road configuration or markings creating confusion among drivers, causing them to miss the signs?
This is where ergonomics comes in. Ergonomics is the processing of designing or arranging workplaces, products or systems so they fit the people who use them. It’s easy to think ergonomics is only about workstation setup or to prevent neck pain and RSI. It is true that ergonomics plays a vital role in these things, however ergonomics can be applied in numerous situations, some of which are quite surprising.
Here’s some of the more unusual situations we’ve applied the principles of good ergonomics:
– a wind farm (assessing construction activities and servicing procedures to protect workers);
– the flow of people through a government department office (to ensure ease of movement, safety of staff and limited access to sensitive areas);
– air traffic control consoles (ensuring appropriate visibility and audibility, as well as suitability of workstations for male and female operators);
– strength of the fingers of post-menopausal women aged 50+ (for the use of jet injectors to administer HRT solutions);
– people with disabilities of all types using the MyKi system (visibility, accessibility, height, readability)
Ergonomic principles apply to almost everything we do in our every day life. When they are applied well, we don’t think about them. But, as the Montague St Bridge saga demonstrates, when they are applied poorly (or not at all), it can create chaos!
An ergonomically sound workplace is a productive and safe workplace. How ergonomically sound is your work environment?