Ergo Research


Ergo Research

Ergonomic research on  work-related health problems  by innovative computer models with focus on the prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders


 The project is Financed by the Bulgarian National Science Fund. 

Project Duration: 06.12.19 - 05.12.2022. 



The universities are the place where future engineers and other executives acquire the knowledge to safely carry out the work process, as well as how to protect the health of workers and clients. An essential part of the educational process is the preparation of competent, knowledgeable and engaged future employers, leaders and employees.

In the context of an aging population all across Europe, in combination with a rising trend for increasing retirement ages, it is particularly important to ensure safe, healthy and fair working conditions. By 2030, workers between the ages of 55 and 64 are expected to make up 30% or more of the workforce of many EU countries.

According to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), 70% of Britain’s citizens consider workplace stress to be the most significant health hazard, 32% of them point out the back tension as dangerous and 26% consider the repetitive, daily overwork as alarming.

A 2014 survey by the National Public Radio (NPR), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard H.T. Chain School of Public Health shows the impact of stress on the population, with 75% stating that stress affects family life, 74% indicate an impact on their health, 70% report an impact on relationships with colleagues and 68% indicate an impact on their social life. The survey also found that 70% sleep less, 44% eat less, 43% exercise for shorter periods, 41% attend more religious services and / or pray more, and 40% report a worsening sex life.

Taking into account the aforementioned studies and the fact that most of the day people spend at their workplace, a thorough and extensive examinations and investigations on the worker in their work environment is needed in order to detect and prevent health issues. It is necessary to study and systematize the working posture, taking into account its influence on the efficiency of work. 

The current study aims at conducting an ergonomic assessment of the work (educational) environment, as well as the new or emerging risks, in order to develop a plan for timely and effective preventive measures. It is the result of the campaigns of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work and the forthcoming 2020-2022 campaign, which focuses on the prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). A system of indicators will be developed, aimed at studying body posture, duration of exposure and other work (study) environment risks.

The main goal of the project is to create new knowledge in the field of ergonomic through the use of artificial intelligence and information and communication technologies.

 

The specific objectives of the project are:

Acquiring new knowledge and improving existing ergonomic models of the person-work environment system to prevent human health issues, in order to extend and enhance productivity;

To establish a set of indicators for automated detection of disorders in the musculoskeletal system, negative emotional states, mental stress and physiological conditions of the person;

Development of resources incl. databases of physiological signal and position records of the human body in various application scenarios.


The following fundamental research tasks are derived from the aforementioned objectives:

  1. First research task – Development of new methods and models for automatic recognition of: disorders of the musculoskeletal system and physiological abnormalities.
  2. Second research task – Development of new ergonomic models of the human-work environment system in order to prevent human health issues, aimed at extending and enhancing productivity.

In order to successfully achieve the formulated goal, objectives and research tasks, the following scientific and applied activities must be performed:

  • Development of hardware and software tools for collection and storage of data in databases, containing records of physiological signal and positional markers;
  • Development of questionnaires and evaluation cards for complex ergonomic evaluation of the work/educational process for all parties involved in the process;
  • Theoretical and empirical study on the relation “safe and healthy work conditions – organizational/managerial factors – efficiency of the educational process”;
  • Creating new and refining existing signal processing methods;
  • Development of algorithms for extracting information from physiological signals and positional markers;
  • Three-dimensional modelling of musculoskeletal system elements;
  • Development and optimization of models and methods for recognition of musculoskeletal disorders caused by the work environment;
  • Development of methods and models for ergonomic assessment of human productivity.

The project implementation will promote the technological transfer of new knowledge in the field of communication and information technologies into innovative ergonomic solutions. It will provide scientific basis for addressing important social issues related to maintaining the health and work performance of people while being based on effective training.