3 Takeaways from the International Standards Organization Meeting

Apr 3rd, 2017

As an anthropology expert, I am fortunate to be able to travel often (a very nice perk of the job). Most recently I found myself in Paris for the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee meeting on anthropometry and biomechanics. I’ve been attending similar meetings since 1999, when I was appointed as U.S. expert for the organization.

These meetings are helpful for both the science of anthropometry and Anthrotech, too. We typically follow the international standard definitions for the measurements we take and the body positions for the scans we conduct. So, it is helpful to take part in the creation and revision of these standards. It allows Anthrotech to always be at the forefront of the most current approaches.

The main goal of this particular meeting was to update seven current standards and discuss the addition of a new one. There were plenty of opportunities to broaden knowledge during the meeting, and the discussions were quite lively. At the end of the event, there were three major takeaways.

  1. An adjustment was made to a standard based on cultural factors. One recent document was a technical report containing anthropometric summary statistics from various countries around the world (ISO-TR-7250-2). The latest edition has new data from India. This was a result of an interesting discussion centered on accounting for cultural factors in measurements. For example, for some of the measurements from India, some participants were measured while wearing a turban. The experts discussed the extent to which the increased head size and stature (due to the turban) should influence the published data and updated the standard accordingly.
  1. One standard is being changed significantly because of the way people work in the 21st century. ISO 14738, called “Safety of Machinery – Anthropometric requirements for the design of workstations at machinery,” will be heavily revised due to changes in the way people work. The original version assumed that people would work all day standing or sitting stationary at a machine, continuously performing the same task. Modern factories – not to mention workspaces in offices, truck cabs and the international space station – allow for much more movement during the work day. Because of this, the committee is revising the standard to take that variability into account.
  1. A new document will detail how to use anthropometric data from many dimensions at once. Traditional approaches to anthropometric accommodation treat each dimension as a single feature. For example, in an automobile, the length of the leg would be considered separately from seated height and arm length. The new document we discussed (which might end up being a technical report or a full standard) allows all important dimensions to be considered at once. Keeping with our automobile example, the new standard would facilitate the accommodation of someone who had long legs, but a short seated height. Using this new method will require ample raw data, and while Anthrotech has plenty of that, the method may not be helpful for every designer or engineer. Still, when the raw data are available, the new standard will make it possible to have a much better estimate of overall accommodation.

The fact that standards are continuing to be adapted to changing individuals and lifestyles is both fascinating and important. It is truly rewarding to be a part of continuing progress in anthropometry. Being involved in these adaptations is both a benefit to me professionally and to Anthrotech clients who can expect to receive only unmatched expertise from our team.

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