Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1998;24 suppl 3:88-95    pdf

Knowledge-based support for the participatory design and implementation of shift systems

by Gissel A, Knauth P

Objectives This study developed a knowledge-based software system to support the participatory design and implementation of shift systems as a joint planning process including shift workers, the workers' committee, and management.

Methods The system was developed using a model-based approach. During the 1st phase, group discussions were repeatedly conducted with 2 experts. Thereafter a structure model of the process was generated and subsequently refined by the experts in additional semistructured interviews. Next, a factual knowledge base of 1713 relevant studies was collected on the effects of shift work. Finally, a prototype of the knowledge-based system was tested on 12 case studies.

Results During the first 2 phases of the system, important basic information about the tasks to be carried out is provided for the user. During the 3rd phase this approach uses the problem-solving method of case-based reasoning to determine a shift rota which has already proved successful in other applications. It can then be modified in the 4th phase according to the shift workers' preferences. The last 2 phases support the final testing and evaluation of the system. The application of this system has shown that it is possible to obtain shift rotas suitable to actual problems and representative of good ergonomic solutions.

Conclusion A knowledge-based approach seems to provide valuable support for the complex task of designing and implementing a new shift system. The separation of the task into several phases, the provision of information at all stages, and the integration of all parties concerned seem to be essential factors for the success of the application.