The central, common element shared by all participatory ergonomics intervention experiences is the establishment of a task force within the company with the participation of the different agents. This will take the leading role in diagnosing and assessing risk situations, proposing the necessary preventive actions, monitoring the implementation of the proposed measures and assessing them.
This characteristic of PE means there is a series of important particular features in the programmes carried out based on this perspective:
- It is necessary to hold dialogue and get the different departments of the company (managers, supervisors, technicians, workers, etc.), who can have opposing points of view, to agree.
- It is necessary to motivate and convince all those involved of the benefits and advantages associated with carrying out a PE programme. It is especially important to achieve a firm, clear commitment from management and from the workers’ representatives.
- Communication processes at all levels are especially important, both for data collection and for proposals and the implementation of solutions. An essential aspect in communication in PE programmes is that the transmission of information should not create false expectations among workers.
- It is necessary to work as a group. As has been mentioned, PE programmes focus on a representative group carrying out all stages of the process which must be coordinated with different people inside and outside the company. Group work is a very effective way of collecting information and solving problems, but it also presents challenges and difficulties concerning coordination, working styles and possible conflicts between people.
This whole process, although it is participatory and the work has to be shared between the group members, requires a person who can act as mentor or guide at various times. This person’s duties, as well as knowledge of the process and of PE techniques, include aspects such as:
- Coordinating the task force.
- Being the interlocutor with the different departments of the company.
- Motivating everyone involved to achieve the best results.
- Mediating and resolving conflicts that may arise both within the task force and between the different departments of the company.
- Transmitting knowledge and communicating results.
These functions may be carried out by one or more people. Normally, it is the ergonomist or prevention expert who is the person in charge. In any case, the professional profile requires the acquisition of certain techniques and resources making it possible to lead the task forces, motivate and resolve conflicts. This is what we call personal capabilities or skills. These capacities do not usually form part of the training of ergonomists or the experts in charge of coordinating PE programmes.