March 11, 1999
Contact: Chris Curran


Cincinnati -- University of Cincinnati industrial engineers have harnessed the expertise of ergonomic experts around the world to help businesses and industry design safer and more productive work sites.

The result is the "Industrial and Occupational Ergonomics: Users' Encyclopedia," a single CD-ROM which contains as much information as three standard handbooks. The CD covers everything from preventing serious injuries to designing better hand tools.

"We wanted something that was easy to use, concise, and inexpensive, so it's actually used," said Anil Mital, professor of industrial engineering and director of UC's Ergonomics and Engineering Control Research Laboratory.

Mital coordinated the production of the CD-ROM which was published by the International Journal of Industrial Engineering. Mital says the CD-ROM not only contains more information than a traditional handbook; it contains much more useful information.

"This is a resource as opposed to existing handbooks in ergonomics and human factors," emphasized Mital. "Available handbooks are written more for a researcher. These are loaded with references. You need to go through all those references before you get any relevant information. Practitioners don't have time for that."

Instead, the CD-ROM allows a user to search for a topic or problem area and quickly find a range of possible solutions. "There are some design solutions, some administrative solutions, and some work practice solutions. The idea is to give the user a variety of solutions," said Mital.

The background information also allows practitioners from other disciplines such as electrical engineering to review topics related to their field of work, even if they're not experts in that particular area. "If somebody wants to know the mechanics of the spinal column, they can see how the spine is configured. They can see how forces affect the spine to prevent back injuries," explained Mital. "They don't have to be biomechanics experts."

By coordinating information and solutions from sources around the world, the CD-ROM also serves the needs of the global economy. The list of co-authors stretches across five pages and six continents.

"It had to have a global perspective. It couldn't just be an American perspective or a British perspective or a German perspective. It had to have all the perspectives, so that this is just as useful in Germany or Japan as it is here."

Arun Pennathur, the managing editor and a doctoral candidate in industrial engineering at UC, said the CD-ROM format provided many other advantages as well. "We could use real images and color images, because it didn't cost us any more. That gives you a real feeling. Another goal was to make it as affordable as possible."

So, the CD-ROM will sell for less than $60 for commercial use and will be sold to students for just $34 a copy. In contrast, ergonomic handbooks can cost up to $600 each.

If the first edition proves successful, Mital and Pennathur plan to develop a second edition which will allow more interactivity and multimedia development. They are also finishing work on a CD-ROM Encyclopedia of Industrial Engineering.

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