Ergonomic Experts Shun NACE Ergo Symposium

Some of the nation's most prominent researchers in ergonomics have declared they will not participate in an ergonomics symposium to be held later this month by OSHA's National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics (NACE).

In a letter written to NACE chairman Carter Kerk, the 11 experts explain that "the focus of the symposium appears to be on research topics already exhaustively reviewed," first by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, then by the National Research Council, and finally by the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers wrote they would reconsider their decision if NACE directed the Jan. 27 symposium toward evaluating the progress made by these organizations, especially the effectiveness of company-based ergonomic programs.

"I was actually pleased to receive such a letter," commented Kerk in a recent interview, "because I have done ergonomics research and I share some of the concerns raised in this letter." Kerk said he would place the letter into the docket of the symposium.

Kerk also defended the NACE symposium. "I think those who wrote the letter are concerned we will get into the debate of whether these types of injuries exist or whether workplace ergonomic programs are effective," he explained. "But that's not what we're trying to do at all."

The purpose of the symposium is to examine the most recent research and to fulfill OSHA Administrator John Henshaw's request that NACE provide OSHA with specific recommendations with respect to OSHA's ergonomic guidelines, education and outreach, and further research on selected topics.

"Mr. Henshaw was interested in how existing research can be brought down to useful day-to-day practical usefulness," said Kerk. "OSHA wants to make suggestions to the research community on certain areas to explore, and we at NACE would like to assist the agency in this effort."

Despite the decision of the eleven ergonomists not to participate in the symposium, Kerk said that NACE has received many well-researched research papers. He also asserted the committee has completed its selection process and did not choose proposals on the basis of the research conclusions.

"The abstracts we selected for the symposium," said Kerk, "were all data-driven and recent examples of high-quality ergonomics research."

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