By: Dr. RS Bridger

In December 2010, I had the honour of presenting a keynote address at the first SEANES conference in Cebu. Prior to the conference, I had the opportunity to visit colleagues at De la Salle University in Manila and University San Jose de Recoletos in Cebu, where I presented ergonomics lectures around the theme ‘Ergonomics Research in Action: Think Global, Act Local’. When travelling in the Philippines, one can observe many of the characteristic social and economic features of developing countries.

I was struck by the ingenuity with which local solutions were being generated to develop affordable, cost-effective solutions to a variety of problems –  the ubiquitous motorcycle taxis and the famous ‘Jeepnies’ (urban minibuses) are examples. Our own UK legislative framework in Health and Safety would stifle this kind of innovation at the local level and it was encouraging to see a paper at the SEANES conference in which modern engineering and ergonomics methods were being used to improve the design of such locally-developed ergonomic solutions to improve their efficiency and safety.

In recent editions of ‘The Ergonomist’ we have heard about the challenges facing ergonomics programmes in UK universities and I expect that low student demand has played a role. In contrast, in the Philippines, I was impressed by the number of students interested in ergonomics or studying it at university, across a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, ranging from industrial engineering to physiotherapy and other professions allied to medicine.

In my lectures and keynote, I decided to focus on the development of research strategies and to encourage the students to identify and prioritise the research needs in ergonomics in the Philippines (acting local) while, at the same time working with the aim of publishing their research in journals such as Ergonomics (thinking global). Whether I succeeded or not, I don’t know, but I departed very impressed by the enthusiasm for ergonomics in the Philippines and this bodes well for the future. I would like to thank PHILERGO and the SEANES organisers for the opportunity to make a small contribution to Ergonomics in the Philippines.