2014 Ragnar E. Onstad
Service to Society Award
Throughout his career, Rob Radwin has been deeply committed to solving health and safety problems that affect the lives of workers every day. A professor of industrial and systems engineering and biomedical engineering, Radwin focuses on the causes and prevention of musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace and is widely regarded as an expert in the field.
As the founding chair of the UW-Madison biomedical engineering department in 1999, Radwin ensured that ergonomics disciplines such as biomechanics were embedded in the curriculum for all BME students. In his classes and workshops, he teaches students how to prevent musculoskeletal injuries through better design for equipment, tools, products and the work environment as a whole.
The importance of this work extends beyond the classroom, and Radwin has taken an active role in extending the results of his research to the community. He has consulted with more than 40 companies and organizations on workplace biomechanical stresses and repetitive trauma. And he has helped shape public policy by serving as a science advisor to national standards committees such as the American National Standards Institute, and by advising government agencies such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Radwin’s impact on public policy and training has had widespread influence. According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimate, musculoskeletal disorders cost $950 billion a year and impact more than 650,000 workers. “He has helped companies save money, has helped workers to avoid injury, and ultimately improved the quality of life in our communities,” says UW-Madison alumnus George Gruetzmacher, an industrial hygiene engineer for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Darius Sivin of the United Auto Workers Health and Safety Department believes Radwin’s excellent intrapersonal skills have been key to the widespread adoption of his research. “Radwin has the rare ability to connect to workers on a personal level while simultaneously tackling engineering and societal problems with unimpeachable science,” he says. “Although he is capable of reducing the human body to mathematical equations, he still has the compassion to strive for pain-free workplaces.”