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:
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.
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.
To be an ergonomist you should:
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.
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