6. There are noise-absorbing wall elements on three sides of the workplace. A transparent welding curtain covers the fourth wall. This makes it possible for the welder to keep informed of what happens in the workshop environment.
5. The workstation has ventilation at three levels: general displacement ventilation, workplace ventilation using a movable arm, and integrated ventilation in the MIG welding gun. The workplace ventilation is controlled from the welding gun.
On the basis of these few principles, several types of immediate action can first be defined. The highest priority of action will concern working conditions that are capable of posing particularly acute problems for older workers. As mentioned earlier, postural stresses, extreme exertion, strict time constraints (e.g., as with assembly-line work or the imposition of higher output goals), harmful environments (temperature, noise) or unsuitable environments (lighting conditions), night work and shift work are examples.
2. One should anticipate individual and collective changes related to age, as well as changes in work techniques and organization. The management of human resources can be effectively carried out only over time, so as to prepare appropriate adjustments in work careers and training. The design of work situations can then take account at the same time of the available technical and organizational solutions and the characteristics of the (future) population concerned.
Relating data concerning age, work and health is therefore at the same time a useful and complex matter. Their use permits various types of connections to be revealed (or their existence to be presumed). It may be a case of simple causal relationships, with some requirement of the work accelerating a type of decline in the functional state as age advances. But this is not the most frequent case. Very often, we shall be led to appreciate simultaneously the effect of an accumulation of constraints on the a set of health characteristics, and at the same time the effect of selection mechanisms in accordance with which workers whose health has declined may find that they are excluded from certain kinds of work (what the epidemiologists call the healthy worker effect).
· As regards the worker whose disability is being examined with a view to his or her re-entry into the workplace, the nature and seriousness of the incapacity must be assessed.
Nevertheless, the awareness that investment in a healthy working environment is money well spent has been growing with the recognition that the social costs of incapacities are translatable in terms of ultimate costs to a countrys economy, and that value is lost when a potential worker is sitting about at home making no contribution to society. Investing in a workplace (in terms of adapting a work station or providing special tools or perhaps even help in personal hygiene) can not only reward a person with job satisfaction but can help make him or her self-sufficient and independent of social assistance.
If one does not accept this view, it becomes necessary to regard investment only in relation to doubtful and unspecified results. If ergonomists and physicians wish to improve the work environment of disabled peopleto produce more from machine operations and enhance the usability of the tools usedthey will encounter difficulties in finding ways to justify the financial investment. Typically, such justification has been sought in savings realized by prevention of injury and illness due to work. But if the costs of illness have been borne not by the company but by the state, they become financially invisible, so to speak, and are not seen as work-related.
From the strictly economic point of view, the costs of creating a system in which a given task can be performed or in which a certain product can be made can be specified; it scarcely needs mentioning that in these terms each company is interested in a maximum return on its investment. But how can the real costs of task performance and product manufacturing in relation to financial investment be determined when one takes into account the varying exertions of workers physical, cognitive and mental systems? In fact, the judging of human performance itself is, among other factors, based on the workers perception of what has to be done, their view of their own value in doing it, and their opinion of the company. It is actually the intrinsic satisfaction with work that is the norm of value in this context, and this satisfaction, together with the aims of the company, constitute ones reason for performing. Worker well-being and performance are thus based on a wide spectrum of experiences, associations and perceptions that determine attitudes towards work and the ultimate quality of performancean understanding upon which the RTUM model is predicated.
Cost/benefit analyses can be carried out in order to determine whether special intervention in the workplace is justified for disabled persons. The following factors represent sources of data that would form the object of such analyses:
Cost/benefit analyses are developed by ergonomists in order to gain insight into the results of ergonomic policies other than those that are economic. In the present day, evaluation in the industrial and commercial realms includes the negative or positive impact of a policy on the worker.
It would be a well-advised company policy to reserve annually a modest amount of money to have worksites analysed and made more suitable for workers, a move that would prevent illness and disability due to excessive physical load. It also increases the motivation of workers when they understand that management is actively trying to improve their work environment, and more impressively so when elaborate measures sometimes have to be undertaken: thorough work analysis, the construction of mock-ups, anthropometrical measurements, and even the specific design of units for the workers. In a certain company, in fact, the conclusion was that the units should be redesigned at every worksite because they caused physical overload in the form of too much standing, there were unsuitable dimensions associated with the seated positions, and there were other deficiencies as well.