News » IEA Congress, Recife Blog
10 February - 18 February 2012

Monday 20th February - IEA Congress summary

Sorry for the blog stopping, but with the arrival of all the delegates for the congress the internet access become so slow that it was impossible to upload any stories without it timing out. So I will give you a summary of the conference in stead which will hopefully give you some insights into the trends running in ergonomics currently.

Trend one: Musculoskeletal disorders:

From the conference it is clear that musculoskeletal disorders remain a considerable problem throughout the world and not just in industrially developing regions. Paul Kuijer from the Netherlands presented a paper on MSDs in Europe and contended that the number of injuries occuring today is the same as two decades ago. It is therefore apparent that manual materials handling and MSDs still require a substantial amount of research. Bill Marras developed a keynote speach on the latest in our understanding of lower back pain. His main premise was that the models that we are currently using are too simple and do not truly reflect the risks inherent in the work environment. He argued that psychophysical factors such as personality and biochemical factors are all important in determining an individuals level of risk. Consequently it is necessary to consider each individual as a seperate case. Although this is most likely a valid argument, I am not sure that it is necessarily feasible from an implementation perspective. Your comments or thoughts here are welcome.


Trend two: Sustainable development:

There were a large number of presentations on sustainable development at the conference and it is clear that the IEA committee under the leadership of Klaus Zink have done a good job here. Our own Andrew Thatcher presented two important papers in this area which were well received. Dave Moore from New Zealand presented a keynote address on the work he has been doing in New Zealand in sustainability with some encouraging results. The key theme coming out of these presentations is that ergonomics can and should be playing a key role in developing a sustainable future for the world at both a macro and micro level.


Trend three: Future of ergonomics:

An important part of the conference was the discussion surrounding the future of ergonomics document that has now been published in Ergonomics. Jan Dul and his team argue that the basis of ergonomics is the systems approach whereby both worker health and safety and productivity are key concerns. They also highlighted some key areas of research for the future including the aging worker. On this point there was some discussions as this is a problem that is restricted to Industrially advanced countries, with for example South Africa having an average life expectancy of below 55. Furthermore the document fails to acknowledge some of the key problems facing IDCs such as the lack of resources/knowledge, HIV and the cycle of disease. Hopefully a well written response to the article will come out of the IDCs to try and stimulate further discussions.

The proceedings of the conference are available for free online at:

I will also add more thougths and comments during the course of the week.

Sunday 12th February - Council meeting day 2

The second day of the council meeting is a very important day within the IEA as the executive to run the association for the next three years is selected.

Before this however there were several other matters on the Agenda. Firstly proposals for hosting the council meeting in 2013 were heard. For those that don't know the IEA council is made up by all the federated (one of which is South Africa) and affilated socities. In total there are around 50 such socities around the world making the IEA a truly international association. The 2013 council meeting will be hosted in Paris, Frace to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the society. It will therefore be held in August next year at the same time as the SELF (French ergonomics society) conference.

Four very strong bids were also presented for hosting the IEA congress in 2018 by Canada, India, Italy and Turkey. Although it would have been nice from a South African perspective to have the congress in an industrially developing region I think the central location of the Italian bid won most votes. So the 2018 congress will be in Florence, Italy; I must confess that there are worse places to have the congress than that.

In terms of the new executive, Eric min-yang Wang the current Secretary General, was the sole candidate for President and so he was duly elected. Margo Frasier from Canada was elected as the secretary general and Yushi Fujita from Japan as the new treasurer. We wish all three of them the best in the upcoming years. I will let you know what happens with the rest of the executive positions as they get negotiated over the next couple of days, obviously of primary interest to us is the developing countries position.

The conference centre, which is rather large and hot then hosted the opening ceremony for the conference were all of the IEA triennial awards were handed out by the former IEA president David Caple, I have put a list of these on the twitter feed so have a look there is you are interested.

The conference starts on Monday but has a strange set up with the actual programme only commencing at 13h00. I will give you some ideas of the content later.



Saturday 11th February - Council meeting day 1

A total of 48 societies were represented at the council meeting, it was particularly good to see three representatives from Africa: South Africa, Tunisia and Nigeria. I believe that there will also be individuals from Mozambique and Algeria at the conference itself. It is exciting to see the discipline growing in Africa.

During the lunch break we were able to have some good discussions regarding the development of ergonomics in Africa. A positive step for us was made in attempting to get a network of ergonomics societies in Africa established. This will allow for much better collaboration between our societies and hopefully we will be able to use this network to continue to grow ergonomics in Africa. Such discussions are what make the IEA council meetings imperative.

In terms of the meeting itself, most of the day was spent discussing the various reports of the IEA executive committee, I will upload these reports onto the website shortly for you to look at, at your own leisure.

Dave Caple the immediate past president of the IEA also presented the new fellows and awards to be handed out at the opening of the congress on Sunday evening. For those interested here is a brief list of the important awards:

IEA Triennial award for distinguished service: Pascal Carayon

IEA Triennial award for ergonomics development: Hal Hendrick

IEA Triennial award for promotion of ergonomics in IDCs: Kamiel von Wonterghem

IEA Triennial award for outstanding educator in ergonomics: Raja Parasuraman

IEA Presidents award: Ernst Koningsveld.

It was also nice to see two ESSA members being acknowledged (Pat Scott and Candice Christie) for their work on the Liberty Mutual best paper award. Well done to the both of you for keeping the South African flag flying. Hopefully we can ensure that the IDC award comes back to SA in 2015.

Jan Dul then presented the IEA White paper on the future of ergonomics and the key ideas of how to ensure the future success of the profession. I will not elaborate more on this right now as he is presenting a more comprehensive cover of the topic as a keynote address at the congress after which I will give you some more details.


This bought the first day of the meeting to an end. Tomorrow is the main voting day where the new IEA executive committee will be elected as well as the venue for the 2018 IEA congress. It promises to be an interesting day. I will update you again tomorrow.

Time for a well deserved beer!

I type this as the carnival  goes past (although it is a week before the real event they spend the week before getting ready - so the main street has been closed off and there are a thousand people walking down the road).


Friday 10th February 2012

A warm welcome from Brazil. Although the conference doesn't officially start until Monday, there is alot happening in Recife this weekend. I will be arriving there this afternoon to attend the IEA council meeting on Saturday and Sunday. There are some important issues on the agenda for this meeting, so I will keep you updated. Saturday consists primarily of reports from the varioius executive members and the IEA subcommittees. Of particular interest here will be the report from the IDC subcommittee chaired by Barbara Silversteen and the 'future of Ergonomics' subcommittee chaired by Jan Dul.

On Sunday we will move to the voting items, including the new IEA executive. There are several candidates for most of the positions which is good news. There will also be voting for the venue for the IEA congress in 2018 with four countries via to host this event. It would be great if in years to come we could grow to a size to be a candidate country.


There are some great sessions and keynote addresses at the conference, I will tell you more about these over the weekend. But as a taster, how about this for a powerhouse session:

S10 - Systems Ergonomics
Chair: John Wilson

Dynamic systems approach as basis for human oriented design
Ralph Bruder, Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany

Systems approaches to risk assessing healthcare, how far have we come?
Peter Buckle, Robens Institute, University of Nottingham, England

Sociotechnical systems approach to healthcare quality and patient safety
Pascale Carayon, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Performance-based management and quality of work: an empirical assessment
Pierre Falzo, Adelaide Nascimento, Corinne Gaudart, Cécile Piney, Marie-Anne Dujarier, Jean-François Germe, National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts, France

Fundamentals of systems ergonomics
John R Wilson, University of Nottingham, UK

There are many such sessions and I will keep you updated as best I can.


Chat soon