Research Picks – June 2016

Ergonomics and environment special edition

Cycling for your life

A new study in The Netherlands suggests that road crossings for cyclists must be reviewed urgently to give older cyclists more time under a green light before motor vehicles are allowed to continue on their journey. It was already known that older pedestrians are not being allotted enough crossing time, but this work published in the International Journal of Human Factors and Ergonomics adds another dimension to urban planning and road management for all road users. The researchers found that cyclists over the age of 65 years needed about 10 to 15 percent more time to cross a junction with signals than younger riders. Moreover, about half of those observed using crossings with signals were unable to reach the opposite side before the lights change.

De Waard, D., Lambers, A.A.A. and Brookhuis, K.A. (2016) ‘Crossing time of older cyclists at signalised junctions‘, Int. J. Human Factors and Ergonomics, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp.1-9.

 

The trouble with vibration

Regular use of vibrating machinery and power tools is known to be detrimental to the user’s hands and arms. Vascular, neurological and musculoskeletal disorders are often seen in “hand-arm vibration syndrome” among manual workers who use such equipment. A review of the scientific research in this area suggests that variations in grip force, elbow angle, resonance frequency and handle diameter are significant factors in how vibration is transmitted to hand and thence to arm and could inform modern ergonomic design and operational advice for power tools and other vibrating equipment.

Saha, S. and Kalra, P. (2016) ‘A review on hand-arm vibration exposure and vibration transmissibility from power hand tools to hand-arm system‘, Int. J. Human Factors and Ergonomics, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp.10-46.

 

Trees versus cars

Trees in the urban environment are an attractive and pleasing feature for many city dwellers and visitors. They also reduce the heat island effect helping to lower temperatures slightly in cities and towns in hotter climes. Unfortunately, the presence of trees also disrupts wind flow through city “canyons” which can lead to a build up of vehicular pollution, according to new research from Italy. It must be emphasised that the solution would not be to cut down the trees but rather to reduce traffic congestion and road use and perhaps to accelerate the switch to non-pollution vehicles. The findings have important consequences for public health and estimates of pollution in towns and cities across the globe.

Di Sabatino, S., Buccolieri, R., Pappaccogli, G. and Leo, L.S. (2015) ‘The effects of trees on micrometeorology in a real street canyon: consequences for local air quality‘, Int. J. Environment and Pollution, Vol. 58, Nos. 1/2, pp.100-111.

 

Communication on the cards for autism

Autism often involves impairment in verbal and non-verbal communication and while its incidence seems to be increasing there is yet to be a concomitant increase in teaching aids, therapy nor technology to improve quality of life for those people affected. Scientists in Indonesia have built on an earlier communication aid developed in the USA, known as PECS (picture exchange communication system), to help in this area of education for those living in Indonesia. The team has also standardised the size and shape of the picture card system and eradicated the sharp corners commonly a problem with laminated cards. The team suggests that their system with its more parochial choice of images provides greater emotional engagement for users than was seen with the US system. The team also points out that they sponge their cards with a mixture of frangipani oil and lotus oil for its putative aromatherapy benefits.

Gunawan, L.H., Hartono, M. and Mustikasari, H. (2016) ‘The application of ergonomics aspect and Kansei engineering in designing communication aid for children with autism‘, Int. J. Human Factors and Ergonomics, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp.47-59.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.