Michael Patkin's

  Ergonomics the key to a leap forward

Publication history, Reflections & comments



Surgery & ergonomics


Information design

Editorials, book reviews




SIR — The call by Mr Ter­ry from the Industrial Design Council (Letters. 26/7) for better Australian design deserves the widest support. The glum news of a 9 giga­buck ($9,000,000,000) trade deficit serves better as a stimulus to effective effort than to despondency. Better ' design of manufactured pro­ducts can compete far more effectively on the domestic and overseas market. ' Worldwide, many items' suit steel-fingered pixies with unusual intuition rather than normal humans. Silly handles on appliances, con­fusing controls and difficult stiff connections are found often on expensive items, whereas good design need add little to manufacturing cost in many cases.

The Australian genius, marked by Ridley's stripper-harvester in 1843, aeroplane landing systems, microsurgical instruments designed by Vickers and Owen, and many other examples, show how the tyranny of distance can be a paper tiger. Developed further, Australian design could be as much a hallmark as that enjoyed by Scandi­navia with its small size.

The key to a forward leap in design at this time is ergonomics, the science of man at work. Ergonomics has its experts and its infor­mation sources scattered around Australia. In business there ishicreasing awareness of ergonomics for video dis­play units and the need for good seating (e.g. DSJ chairs in Adelaide and CDS in Syd­ney), the layout of key­boards, desks and factors such as lighting and noise. The microsurgical instru­ments mentioned above owe much of their rapid success worldwide, now imitated by many, to the simple ergo­nomic principles in their design.

Flipping through Australi­an Design Awards in 1979-80, ergonomics was a prominent feature of cardiac monitors by Telectronics, furniture by Astra, professional audio equipment by Paul Kirk. TV - sets by Philips, and seating mentioned above.
Ergonomics has a second major role to play in the Australian economy, in terms of the workplace as well .,as-the product. Members of the Ergonomics Society in this country include authorities on tractor 'safety, controls., and displays, training for industry, handle design,-.- physical and mental strains, in the workplace and con­taining workers' compensa­tion costs, let alone damage to health and satisfaction.

It is curious to see in the very editing room of The Australian that vertical video screens are propped up by 15 degrees on copies of last year's Sydney . telephone directory, but that seating is still at the wrong height, with no use of simple docu­ment holders, while simple changes in lighting arrange­ment would do much for the comfort and efficiency of your journalists.
We do not have the long craft tradition of Europe, the ethos of Japan, the massive base of the United States, or the low wages of other com­mercially successful coun­tries, but Australian history has demonstrated a fund, of inventiveness, common sense, and. resourcefulness. If the . modern wisdom ' of ergonomics can be added: to these qualities... the„ effect could be dramatic. ".

In Adelaide, one lull-time government ergonomist alone has had an •impact on Indu• try whose value must be measured in millions of dollar. It is up to every Australian manufacturer and manage: to see just how much knowledge of human factor can • add to the value of hi enterprise.

MICHAEL PATKIN Whyalla, South Australia



  Ergonomics the key to a leap forward