The relation between OSH and ergonomics: a 'mother-daughter' or 'sister-sister' relation?

Research paper by Veerle V Hermans, Jan J Van Peteghem

Indexed on: 13 Jun '06Published on: 13 Jun '06Published in: Applied Ergonomics


Despite the growing importance of ergonomics and ergonomists worldwide, the position of ergonomics in companies is often not clear. Today, in many countries ergonomics is mainly (or even only) associated with the reduction of risks of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). Therefore, many companies consider ergonomics a part of occupational safety and health (OSH) that focuses mainly on the reduction of risks. This paper aims to analyse the links between occupational ergonomics and OSH. The position of occupational ergonomics in legislation, the presence of ergonomics in OSH networks, and the position of ergonomics in OSH company services are discussed. In addition, the added value of ergonomics to companies is examined. From these discussions, it becomes clear that ergonomics should be part of the OSH policy of companies, and should be integrated into today's company strategies to improve labour conditions. If ergonomics is considered as a discipline in its own right, a clear legislative context should be developed that goes beyond voluntary guidelines and the goodwill of employers, and necessitates the presence of ergonomics professionals in companies.