Since the 1960s, the physical and psychological characteristics of workers and the demographic mixture of the workforce has changed significantly in the US and less dramatically in other industrialized countries. Ergonomic research and assessment tools such as Snook's tables, NIOSH's Lifting Equation (LE) and its European derivatives along with related good practices emerged in the 1970s – 90s. Concurrently, Safety, Health & Ergonomic (SH&E) researchers' and practitioners' primary focus was on industries with the majority of workers such as manufacturing, retail and office support.
In the past two decades, the SH&E community broadened their ergonomic focus to other non-manufacturing industries such as construction. For example, the Human Factors Society (HFS) which was formed in the 1960s, added "ergonomics" to its name in the 1990s when it joined the International Ergonomic Association (IEA) becoming the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES). In 2014, HFES continued to evolve and changed the scope of its "Industrial" Ergonomics Technical Group to "Occupational" Ergonomics Technical Group to include industries beyond manufacturing and retail. In 1998 the Building and Construction Technical Committee (BC-TC) was added to the IEA. Since 2000, improved collaboration between researchers and practitioners such as NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) and Research to Practice (RtP) have provided encouragement to revise ergonomic assessment tools to better apply to industries.
The process of researching the interaction of physical, psychological and demographic characteristics of workers and the work environment in order to develop good practices can take decades. Preliminary research done in recent years suggests the characteristics and demographics of today's workers have changed significantly and the conclusions, assessment tools and good practices are lagging behind those changes. A new strategy which the authors call "Ergonomic Action Level (EAL)" is needed so good practices anticipate the demographic makeup & psychophysical capacity of today's workers and are designed into today's worksites using Prevention through Design (PtD) techniques.