Ergonomic Workplace Analysis

Alain Wisner, a French ergonomist, had a great influence on Brazilian ergonomics and trained many Brazilian researchers in the 1980s. NR-17 had a lot of effort from labor inspectors trained by this school or ergonomists.

NR-17, which was in force until 2022, made it mandatory for Brazilian companies to implement the Ergonomic Workplace Analysis (EWA) by Brazilian companies, having put the discussion about activity and work organization. The current standard now requires a Preliminary Ergonomic Assessment (PEA), which can eventually lead to an EWA.

The EWA is understood as a structured approach in several stages, aimed at understanding the real work. In other words, the difference between prescribed TASK and ACTIVITY, where task is what the worker is asked to do and activity is what they actually do.

EWA is usually divided into major stages with their own objectives and tools:

  1. Analysis of the company’s needs and operations: Understanding how the company operates, which is done through analysis of interviews and initial visits.
  2. Task analysis: Understanding the technical process and the types of tasks expected. This is done through document analysis and interviews.
  3. Activity Analysis: Understanding the variability and rules that occur in the daily operation of the company, which is done through observations and interviews. and interviews. At this stage, an ergonomic pre-diagnosis of the situation is made.
  4. Systematic observation and data processing: This confirms the pre-diagnosis. It is carried out through observations and interviews to compare and validate the hypotheses.
  5. Formulation of the diagnosis: The aim is to establish relationships between the conditions of the organization, the activity and the results, using the data collected and analyzed in the previous phases.

It is not uncommon to see assessments using so-called ergonomic tools such as OWAS, RULA and REBA as a conclusive method of ergonomic diagnosis. Although they are generally easy to use and have visual elements that can help in the diagnosis with company managers, these tools reduce the complexity of the work to a few objective parameters. These tools cannot replace the analyst’s ability to observe and interview workers.

Since the 2000s, there has been a need to systematize the social construction of the intervention. While the technical construction consists in grouping together elements that make it possible to delimit the different aspects of the work situations that demand the problem, the social construction refers to the development of relevant interactions between the ergonomist and the different actors in the organization for the intervention to progress.

Thus, EWA is a method of analysis that focuses on understanding the work in order to carry out a proper ergonomic intervention, aiming at developing the project and transforming the work, with the social construction as a middle ground.

EWA is therefore a method of analysis that focuses on the understanding of work in order to carry out an appropriate ergonomic intervention aimed at developing the design and transformation of work, with the social construction as the environment.

Many EWAs are anchored in the format of diagnosis and recommendations, the latter often decontextualized from concrete situations, establishing generic recommendations such as the introduction of adjustable chairs, breaks or gymnastics at work. The challenge is to overcome these limitations with interventions capable of transforming work for the benefit of workers.