The work related to ergonomics and industrially developing countries (IDCs) has mainly revolved around the matching of first world technology to the third world context, where there is a generally lower literacy levels. IDCs generally rely heavily on manual labour in sectors such as the agricultural, mining and manufacturing sector. For example, South Africa’s (SA) mining sector has a significant impact on the GDP. As the mining sector not only stimulates mining activities but also has positive spin-offs for many industries namely manufacturing of mining equipment. However, there has been minimal attention given to the prospect the positive impact ergonomics would have both directly in the mining sector and to the industries that supply mines with equipment (hand tools all the way to earth moving machinery).
In order for the IDC industries to benefit from ergonomic integration into their organisations it is imperative that there is a participatory approach from all relevant stakeholders. Particularly upper managements’ involvement from the early stages, as ergonomics has the potentially to reduce accidents in the workplace, decrease repetitive strain injuries, and improve productivity these are some of the benefits ergonomics may have on an organisation.
The application of ergonomics in industrially developed countries is a common practice relative to IDCs. However, industrially developed countries and IDCs share some similarities, allowing for the integration of ergonomics into the IDCs possible; this is especially true concerning the approach that may be use during the integration process of ergonomics into IDCs industries. The IDCs may have greater variance in their approach to integrating ergonomics into their individual context. For example, it would not be sensible to assume that SA and Zimbabwe can use the same approach to implementing ergonomics. The ergonomic principles will not change between the different IDCs but rather how these principles are applied will be dependent on the context of application. Those applying the ergonomics in any IDC context need to ensure that the ergonomic principles are fully adapted to suite each country’s industrial conditions. By adapting to each IDC’s industrial conditions this increases the chances of successful integration of ergonomics to the given IDCs.
The ergonomists responsibility may vary from the traditional responsibilities found in developed countries when applying ergonomics in IDCs. For example, SA has more than eleven official languages with each of the nine provinces having different dominant languages from those eleven languages. Therefore, as an ergonomist it is imperative that communication must be conducted in the language that will ensure that all parties affected can understand one another. In addition, literacy is an issue in SA therefore the ergonomist must be cognisant of such whenever working with clients and the various stakeholders. A good example is the understanding of the terms fatigue and vibration by the blue-collar workers. These terms are often mistake for tiredness and built in dampening motion respectively.
The successful integration of ergonomics into IDCs will need to be minimalistic and build up the ergonomics knowledge base overtime, as this will also ensure that there is minimal financial expenditure during the early implementation stages and that organisational culture is not completely disrupted by the introduction of ergonomics.
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