Origins of the Federation of European Ergonomics Societies

FEES LogoAfter a preparation period of more than 5 years, finally on 7th May 2003, FEES could celebrate its inauguration in Munich, Germany. By then twelve Federated Societies became a member of FEES. Early 2018 FEES counts twenty member societies (actual membership and useful information on FEES can be found at the FEES website.

The major objective for FEES is to enhance the recognition of ergonomics, contributing to economic development, to quality of life, to health and safety at work and to social progress in Europe. More specifically to support -under the umbrella of the International Ergonomics (IEA) - the development of ergonomics within the European region by enhanced mutual communication between various European Ergonomics societies, and by encouraging and facilitating contact and exchanges between ergonomists (educators, researchers and/or practitioners). One of the means to achieve these goals is the organization of European conferences about evolving ergonomics/human factors.

Of course FEES special attention is focused on the relevant policy and programs of the European Union (EU), for instance by assisting in the access to EU resources and facilities for ergonomists and their employers.

FEES is a network of the ergonomics societies in the geographical area called the Council of Europe. The governing body of FEES is the FEES Council consisting of representatives of its member societies. All major decisions are taken by the FEES Council, which meets at least once a year. The FEES Executive Committee executes the day-to-day administration.

The various activities of FEES cover for instance a website meant to facilitate cooperation and information exchange between members and to communicate externally. For the latter goal promotional materials have been developed. A sound achievement is the inventory and publication of ergonomics activity-centers throughout Europe in order to know “who is doing what and where”.

The establishment of the Brussels Task Force in 2005 aimed to promote Ergonomics/Human Factors at EU-organizations and their related bodies and to offer an outstanding ad hoc expertise concerning research, project evaluation, standardization and legislation. For this the first step was to get acquainted with the various EU-facilities, programs and initiatives, and to disseminate EU-information to the FEES-members. The taskforce acted as a working group of about ten people from different countries, having different capacities. Although these tasks had to be performed with volunteers, several good results could be achieved. By acting in Expert-groups in Brussels, FEES promoted and actively participated in the implementation of EU Framework Programs. FEES has a liaison status in the European Committee for Standardization TC 122 ‘Ergonomics’, and contributes to the creation and further development of the European Machine Directive and the Directive in the field of Personal Protective Equipment. FEES is also closely involved as Official Campaign Partner for Healthy Workplaces at the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in Bilbao, Spain.

FEES supported the founding of new Ergonomics societies in Europe, for instance in Latvia, and to further development of existing societies by active exchange of information and experiences between the member societies.

Over the years workshops and symposia with a European character were organized, for instance in Brussels, San Gimignano, Stockholm, Budapest. In 2010 a very successful larger symposium was held in Brugge, Belgium under the title “Ergonomics in and for Europe”. Soon after this symposium the Brussels Taskforce stopped its activities. Kamiel Vanwonterghem, the leader till then, retired, and the amount of work made it impossible to find a new one.

Inspired by the US Human Factors and Ergonomics Society FEES decided in 2005 to organize every October the European month of Ergonomics. The goal was to trigger the knowledge, information and insight of ergonomics in the member countries. The good contacts between FEES and OSHA made a fruitful collaboration possible. Where FEES had ambitions but few financial resources, and OSHA had a budget but limited staff, the collaboration worked fine, despite the difference that OSHA is more focused on curation, where ergonomics basically a preventive discipline is. Through very motivated individuals like Martti Launis, the Month of Ergonomics has become a success, despite the fact that it is not taken up in all FEES member countries.

In 2012, at the Council held in Stockholm, a new team took the lead, with Sylvain Leduc as President, Pascal Etienne as Secretary General and Reinier Hoftijzer as Treasurer, the FEES website being reorganized and fed by Gyula Szabo, chair of the Communication and Promotion task group.

During these years, FEES organized several conferences or similar events, related to initiatives taken by member societies. For instance in 2013 in Munich, for the tenth anniversary of FEES. Besides several symposiums were held: one on the issue FEES foundation and development, cooperation between FEES and CREE, the future of FEES; another on the challenges of ergonomics in Europe; and one on the issue of the cooperation between ergonomists and other stakeholders with presentations on ergonomics and Personal Protective Equipment, on standardization, and on the activity of the European OSH Agency. In 2015, two symposia took place in Lisbon and in Paris on “ergonomics and creativity”, with the aim to give food for thought in order to prepare the IEA 20th Congress in Florence. And in November 2016 in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, a round table on “Ergonomics in design for all“ and a symposium on „Ergonomics and creativity” were held, jointly with the Human Factors NL, the Dutch society fo ergonomics.

At the June 2017 FEES Council, the rules of FEES were updated; the main change being the creation of the status of associated member, giving the opportunity to the Ergonomics society in United Kingdom (CIEHF) to become again part of FEES, as associated member. A new treasurer was elected: Pedro Ferreira.

During the year 2017, FEES was strongly involved in the preparation of the conference on “workers and creativity”, held in Brussels in June 2017, showing a cooperative process between the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), the Belgium Ergonomic Society (BES), CREE and FEES with the support of IEA. Such a support is a first evidence of the mutual support decided by IEA and FEES, following the signature of a Memorandum Of Understanding between both associations in Florence at the end of March 2017.

The IEA and FEES Memorandum (see details on the FEES website) reflects the scope of both organizations: to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of HFE in organizations and societies, to develop and share common understanding of ergonomics. In the memorandum FEES and IEA agree to foster the development of ergonomics and ergonomic societies in Europe where it is necessary and expected by the local HFE professionals. FEES welcomes the IEA mandate to support the development of HFE in the periphery of Europe, (e.g. the Mediterranean border countries, the Middle East countries…) in co-operation and agreement with the regional concerned bodies (e.g., ERGOAFRICA), according to the needs expressed by the national societies (or individuals, if any), and/or the regional networks mentioned above, such in close co-operation with these networks. FEES is ready to contribute, at the request of the IEA executive, to the development of ergonomics in other countries or regions, where it is required.

The practical collaboration may take the form of the organization of joint meetings and seminars, promotion of outreach activities of Human Factors and Ergonomics, collaboration in the field of development, training/education and professional standards in Europe, publication of joint guidelines, position papers and related documents, collection of case studies published in cooperation with CREE.

Several initiatives have been taken by FEES-representatives showing the implementation of this Memorandum Of Understanding in order to develop ergonomics in various East European countries, such as the Baltic countries (Latvia and Lithuania), Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania. This illustrates the role of FEES in the support of initiatives from local/regional ergonomics communities, particularly in Central and Eastern European countries. FEES is committed and finds itself in a unique position to foster the growing European diversity in the field of ergonomics and human factors.

FEES promoted European-wide activities related with education, certification and accreditation in close cooperation with the Centre for Registration of European Ergonomists (CREE). Both bodies participate jointly in the development of the ergonomics profession in Europe: this includes the establishing of quality criteria for publishing case studies, providing information about ergonomics education and training in Europe and providing more support for newer societies in the form of experience exchanges.

This is a work for IEA History book, prepared by Peter Rookmaaker and Pascal Eitenne, the whole book edited by Ernst Koningsveld.