Workers and creativity: How to improve working conditions by participative methods?

IEA Conference organised by the Federation of European Ergonomics Societies (FEES), ETUI (European Trade Union Institute), the Belgian Ergonomics Society (BES) an the CRRE (Centre for Registration of European Ergonomics ®) in the auditorium of International Trade Union House (ITUH), Boulevard du Roi Albert II 5, 1210 Brussels, Belgium on 26th and 27th June 2017.

ETUI jobs The conference focuses on the issues of creativity related to the improvement of the working conditions by workers and worker representatives participation.

For many years now in Europe, participatory ergonomics has highlighted the importance of taking account of workers' expertise with respect to their situations and working conditions and of how workers' experiences are perceived within companies.

Participatory ergonomics covers different realities depending on what it sets out to achieve: better primary prevention, fewer muscular-skeletal disorders (MSDs), transformed work situations, adjusted or more appropriately designed work equipment or machinery, etc. It also covers many different methodologies and can assume many different forms.

Today, ergonomics faces questions associated with the notion of creativity. Ergonomists encounter creativity in all domains of their activity: workspaces, organisation, design, cognition, systems' resilience, etc. The questions are as follows: Do collaborative workspaces (co-working spaces that are 'third places') promote creativity? How can the company promote creativity? Which suitable processes and tools can serve this purpose? How can new products be made that are tailored to their uses and users? How do new ideas emerge? What happens when the rules of work or working procedures no longer apply? How can creativity be unleashed in unplanned situations?

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Thus, the issue of creativity once again raises the old question asked by the ergonomics of activity regarding workers' initiative. Today, creativity can serve to help explain what ergonomists have been showing for a very long time already, namely how workers regulate and develop operational procedures that enable them to work and cope with unforeseeable factors. To what extent do initiatives taken by operators in the field to ensure the performance and resilience of systems constitute real innovations?

Accordingly, the main topics we intend to address at the conference are:

  • How creative are workers in designing/rectifying work situations? The challenge is to show the creative contributions made by workers in general (knacks, extended applications (e.g. use of tools for other than their primary functions), adaptation of existing tools, creative uses, resilience, etc.) and to take an interest in what they can be expected to contribute in terms of creativity, amongst other things.
  • Does the participation and creativity of workers as experts in their activity allow the co-construction of suitable, shared solutions for improving and transforming working conditions?
  • Can participatory ergonomics provide answers to changes in the quality of work and employment status, to issues associated with increasing the age of retirement, the ageing workforce and the challenges of technological advances and labour-related changes (industry 4.0, digitalisation, robotisation, cobotics, etc.)?
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  • What are the prerequisites for workers' participation in ergonomic intervention? Do workers and their representatives need to be trained in ergonomics to aim for more efficient ergonomic intervention?
  • Does professionalising workers or their representatives through training lead to better interaction with the other agents of prevention (occupational physicians, labour inspectors, prevention consultants, etc.) conducive to the development of innovative and creative ergonomic solutions?

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The final program will be published and the registration will be in April.

Registration of the participants is free of charge. Due to the limited numbers of seats, FEES member societies are invited to send the names of their representatives to the conference, as soon as possible.

The link to reach the registration form is: https://goo.gl/forms/ufi1x3nRBbN63CDB2