The Effects of Design on Employee Health and Safety: Identifying Causal Pathways through Modern Ergonomics and Human Factors

February 5, 2015
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Anderson Hall, Room 112
Speaker: Jack Dennerlein, Northeastern University
Host: Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science


Using conceptual frameworks that bridge all three domains of modern ergonomics (physical, organizational, and cognitive) our research identifies causal pathways that improve the performance and wellbeing of workers across a wide range of business sectors. In the office environment we see improved levels of shoulder muscle activity in computer workers in improved psychosocial environments that in turn reduces the risk for shoulder musculoskeletal disorders. For long haul truck drivers we see reductions in low back pain and disability when we reduce their exposure to whole body vibration through the use of electro-mechanic seat suspension systems. For commercial construction workers we see improved safety climate on sites with safety incentive programs based on working conditions rather than the lagging indicator of injuries. Whether it be the design of a smart phone or the design of a smart workplace health and safety program, incorporating the human element improves employee health and safety, extending work life expectancy.


Dr. Dennerlein is Professor and Director of Research for the Department of Physical Therapy, Movement, and Rehabilitation Sciences in the Bouvé College of Health Science at Northeastern University. He holds adjunct faculty positions at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HCS), and the VU University in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He is co-Principal Investigator for HCS Center for Work, Health, and Well Being. His research seeks to prevent work-related injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) through multiple research approaches that examine how the design of the build environment and of organizational programs and practices affects worker health outcomes. This research is based on a systems approach articulated through the goal of modern ergonomics, which is to optimize system performance and human wellbeing. Dr. Dennerlein holds degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Berkeley.

*Note: Different room than usual for this talk*