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How to become an Ergonomist

ergonomist careers

What does a Ergonomist do?

Ergonomists work with the design of objects, systems and environments, with the aim of facilitating health, well-being, comfort and efficiency. Ergonomics, also known as 'human factors', puts people at the centre of the design process by using scientific information from areas such as anatomy, physiology, psychology and design.

The issues ergonomists consider include:

  • data on the dimensions of the body in various postures, and on the operation of muscles and limbs, in order to ensure working postures avoid excessive forces
  • the physical capabilities and limitations of the body, in order to set standards for acceptable work-rate and workload
  • the impact of environmental factors such as noise, heat and lighting
  • human sensory, information-processing, psychological and decision making capabilities, and the way these affect use of equipment and systems.
Ergonomists analyse human activity in domestic, leisure or working settings, the demands it makes on the person, the effects of these demands, and its implications for individual capabilities and limitations, such as those of elderly or disabled people. This information is used to design objects, systems and environments which are suited to the needs of users and the tasks they perform, for example designing equipment and working arrangements to improve posture and reduce instances of conditions such as repetitive strain injury.

They work alongside a variety of other professionals, such as designers and engineers, health and safety practitioners and human resources specialists, and in a wide range of areas, such as product and equipment design, production systems, information technology and transport design. Many also carry out user trials to test new designs on target user groups and to provide feedback to the manufacturer or client.

Ergonomists may visit workplaces, such as a factories or offices, to carry out risk assessments, assess health and safety standards or investigate workplace accidents. They may act as expert witness in cases of industrial injury.

Ergonomists may also be involved in research, development and teaching.

What's the working environment like working as a Ergonomist?

Many ergonomists work 9am to 5pm, but this could vary depending on the employer and the project, and could include extra hours.

The work often includes a combination of office-based work and travel to visit clients and sites. Much of the work is computer-based, involving the use of design software and computer-aided design (CAD) systems. Ergonomists also use a variety of equipment for making measurements and calculations.

What does it take to become a Ergonomist?

To be an ergonomist you should:

  • have a solid knowledge of anatomy, physiology, psychology, work organisational and industrial sociology and design and evaluation methods
  • have statistical and applied mathematics skills
  • have good knowledge of information technology
  • have good communication skills
  • have good written and verbal presentation skills
  • have an understanding of technical concepts
  • be able to pay close attention to detail
  • have an understanding of manufacturing processes and construction methods
  • have problem-solving skills.
  • have the ability to analyse and communicate complex data.

Ergonomist Career Opportunities

Within the last twenty years, there has been a considerable increase in the awareness of ergonomics and its potential impact on the workplace. Many ergonomists are employed as consultants by private and public organisations, providing specialised services such as workplace design or health and safety. Some move on to freelance consultancy work, but this would usually be after gaining experience over several years.

Qualified and experienced members of the ES may gain entry in the professional register maintained by the Society for use by employers.

Ergonomists may be employed to undertake research and development, product design and teaching in a variety of organisations, including hospitals, colleges and universities, manufacturing companies, government bodies, computer consultancies and research institutes. There may be opportunities for line and project management.

Other professionals, such as industrial designers, engineers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists also make use of ergonomic knowledge, methods and techniques.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Ergonomist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Ergonomics Society
Elms Court
Elms Grove
Loughborough
Leicestershire
LE11 1RG
Tel 01509 234904
www.ergonomics.org.uk

Design Council
34 Bow Street
London
WC2E 7DL
Tel: 020 7420 5200
www.design-council.org.uk

Courses to help you become a Ergonomist