Une approche ergonomique est ici présentée comme un moyen d'améliorer les conditions d'exécution du travail en intervenant lors de projets d'investissement. Cette approche s'appuie sur l'analyse de l'activité en situation réelle et s'articule aux structures mises en place pour la réalisation du projet en accordant une place importante aux travailleurs visés. Sur la base de trois interventions, l'article tente d'illustrer l'intérêt de recourir à cette approche pour optimiser les projets en intégrant une prise en compte de l'activité humaine.
Investment projects, whether they involve new technologies or the design of new buildings, may provide ergonomists with the opportunity to participate in optimizing the design of new work situations. The future activity approachhas been developed to allow ergonomic involvement during the design process. This approach has two main aspects: it is based on "real work" as proposed by French ergonomics; and it considers the design process as a process of social interaction.
The ergonomic intervention in this approach therefore requires observations in real work situations, carried out on reference sites. These sites can be situations to be changed or situations with characteristics similar to those that are to be changed. Using these analyses, the ergonomist participates in the design process. His role or her role is to retrace typical action situationson the reference sites so that the designers' proposais can be tested through human activity, or so that design criteriacan be developed. In a project, several areas of design can be the focus of ergonomic action: space, the technical device, work organization, and training.
The future activity approach assumes that the ergonomic involvement is based on the company structures. By considering design as a process involving several actors (designers, managers, employees), the ergonomist makes use of the abilities of many different participants to carry out the reference site analysis as well as to anticipate the future activity and enhance the outcome of the project through design criteria. Participatory structures, in which the ergonomist plays an important role, are organized in such a way as to allow these abilities to be used. To illustrate how this approach is applied, three different interventions are presented. They are based on the same approach, but differ in certain respects due to the uniqueness of the projects and the contexts involved.
First, in a project to reorganize production in a poultry slaughterhouse, the presence of working groups allowed variability (of people, raw materials, tools) to be better taken into account in the planned facilities. Second, in the design of a new residential and extended-care centre, the ergonomists enhanced the architectural program by becoming involved very early in the process. The working groups in fact revealed working methodsdeveloped by the employees, so that programming could focus on these aspects rather than on standards and regulations. Lastly, an ergonomic intervention during the modernization of a newspaper printing plant shows that reconstitution of the future activityallows not only modifications to improve a proposed project, but also an evolution in the representations that the different participants have of the work situations and, consequently of the relationships between them.
These examples of involvement in various projects also point to the conditions that favour an ergonomic intervention which satisfies criteria to improve not only the health and safety of people, but also production efficiency. The care that is given to the social construction of the intervention has an impact on the ease of implementation of the structures and the rules of the game discussed and accepted by the parties involved. For example, a structure that manages the intervention (follow-up group) should probably be separated from another that participates more directly in the activity analyses and reconstitutions (working group). Early involvement in the projects allows more leeway in the changes to be made. Furthermore, by participating throughout the project in social interactions in a structure planned for this purpose, the ergonomist is better able to achieve something positive than if he or she adheres to recommendations produced at a given time in the process.
We believe that a project to change work situations is an interesting opportunity to create synergy between the resources assigned to prevention and those responsible for improving production. The future activity approach seems to be a suitable process for this.