Founding of the Nordic Ergonomics Society in 1969
The Nordic Ergonomics Society was founded in connection with an international ergonomic conference in 1969 in Stockholm. Here, Scandinavian participants -from universities and higher education institutions dealing with work physiology and occupational health- agreed to establish a Nordic ergonomics society. The participants agreed to establish local branches in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, as a basis for the founding of a Nordic ergonomics society.
Erling Asmussen, a Danish work physiology and one of the founders of NES, wrote in a letter from 1990 to the editor of the journal “Nordic Ergonomics” about the founding of NES: “We were too few to start separate societies, but a Scandinavian or Nordic Society could be the solution. We agreed on that and elected Ulf Åberg, who was an engineer doing work studies e.g. in Göteborg, to prepare a constitutive meeting. Such a meeting was started with a dinner party at Ulf Åberg´s home a few months later. All the Nordic countries were represented”.
“During two days meeting the name and rules of the society were worked out and agreed. NES was a reality. The aim was that NES would be a multidisciplinary community”.
From the beginning, the participants agreed that the purpose of the Society was to bring together members working on research and members with experience from practical adaptations at workplaces. They determined that it was important to adhere to the international definitions of ergonomics at the time. They therefore followed the formulations from the IEA, the International Ergonomics Association:
“Ergonomics integrates knowledge derived from the human sciences to match jobs, systems, products and environments to the physical and mental abilities and limitations of people”
The first statutes determined that membership in the NES would be individual. This meant that local members would join the Nordic Ergonomics Society on an individual basis.
According to oral sources, there was limited activity in the national ergonomics associations during the first ten years. Efforts were spent establishing the associations and enrolling members. This proved challenging, as the number of researchers, educators and practitioners was quite limited. Moreover, the ergonomics concept was difficult to promote to a larger circle of potential NES members.
Despite the difficulties, this generated an interest in ergonomics, and the NES was able to establish connections between researchers and persons interested in ergonomics in all the Nordic countries. To a limited extent, this succeeded in broadening the knowledge of ergonomics during the 1970s, when considerable attention was being paid to improving the working environment and working conditions. Working environment acts – with focus on health -were adopted in all the Nordic countries, which generated a greater focus on workplace conditions. This increased the interest in ergonomics and human factors.
A chapter from the 50th Anniversary Booklet “Nordic Ergonomics and Human Factors Society” 1969 - 2019 written by Gitte Holm Rasmussen