Ergonomist

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Ergonomists consider human capabilities and apply theory, principles, data and methods to design optimal solutions for human wellbeing and overall system performance. Ergonomists work in a variety of settings, depending on the specific specialisation of their job. They often work in design, risk management, occupational health and safety, transport safety, patient safety and many other areas. They may spend time in settings such as offices, laboratories, industrial facilities, teaching environments or retail settings. FutureGrowthModerate

Ergonomists design equipment, devices and environments to be healthy, safe, and comfortable to use or work in.

It is the ergonomist’s role is to study all aspects of the working situation and to fit the job to the human’s attributes. Ergonomists use information about people, for example, their size (height, weight etc.), their ability to handle information and make decisions, their ability to see and hear and their ability to work in extremes of temperature. An ergonomist studies the way that these things vary in a group of people. With this information, the ergonomist, working with designers and engineers, ensures that a product or service will be able to be used comfortably, efficiently and safely. This must be so not only for ‘average’ people, but also for the whole range of people who use the product – including perhaps, children, the elderly and the disabled. An ergonomist can also assess existing products and services, showing where they fail to ‘fit’ the user (in every sense of the word) and suggesting how this fit may be improved.

ANZSCO ID: 232312

Specialisations: Ergonomists typically specialise in one or more of three main areas:

  • Physical Ergonomics - is concerned with anatomical, physiological and biomechanical characteristics, such as posture, and how they relate to physical activity. Physical ergonomics is also concerned with the impact of environmental factors, such as heat, light, sound and vibration, on physical performance.

  • Cognitive Ergonomics - is concerned with the affect of mental processes, such as perception, memory, decision making, stress and fatigue, on interactions between humans and their environment.

  • Organisational Ergonomics - is concerned with the optimisation of organisational functioning, by considering the impact of factors such as communication, teamwork, work-design, fatigue and job rotation.

Alternative names: Human Factors Professional

Knowledge, skills and attributes  

  • tactful and diplomatic
  • able to work independently or as part of a team
  • good communication skills
  • good interpersonal skills
  • a good knowledge of anatomy, physiology and psychology
  • an understanding of design methods
  • an interest in people’s behaviour in different settings
  • an ability to work with all levels of people
  • numeracy and IT skills.
  • discretion and respect for confidentiality and privacy
  • integrity and honesty

     

Duties and Tasks

include personal behaviours, physical capabilities and environmental factors when designing equipment. Typically you would:

  • determine the demands placed on people by their activities, equipment, environment and systems in different contexts
  • identify the factors affecting people and their performance in various settings
  • develop and recommend options for ergonomic interventions
  • educate clients in the safe use and maintenance of the specialised equipment or systems prescribed
  • evaluate the quality and outcome of ergonomic interventions
  • conduct audits to gain insight on how to improve systems
  • analyse how people use equipment and workplaces
  • undertake workplace risk assessments and assess work environments
  • write reports on findings and recommendations
  • advise on office layout including furniture and equipment
  • design equipment for people with disabilities
  • create manuals, signs and other documentation to ensure the best use of new systems or products
  • advise on the design of workstations and production line equipment
  • providing advice, information and training to colleagues and clients
  • trial new designs and provide feedback to manufacturers
  • visit a wide range of environments in order to assess health and safety standards or to investigate workplace accidents
  • act as expert witness in cases of industrial injury.
  • develop and conduct appropriate ergonomics-related education and training
  • promote the application of ergonomics and contribute to ergonomic research

     


Working conditions

As an ergonomist you would work a standard number of hours per week, but you may be required to visit clients outside of standard business hours. You would be based in an office but spend much of your time visiting client sites and workplaces. You would use computer aided design (CAD) systems extensively.

Tools and technologies

Testing
Ergonomists conduct usability testing in order to better understand how users behave.
(Source: Tufts University)

Education and training/entrance requirements

To become an ergonomist you usually have to complete a degree in psychology, industrial design, information technology, engineering or a related field, followed by a postgraduate qualification that specialises in human factors and ergonomics. To get into the degree courses you usually need to gain your HSC/ACT Year 12. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, chemistry, physics or biology are normally required. Most universities in Australia offer relevant degrees. Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires completion of an appropriate bachelor degree.

Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study.

Additional Information

The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australasia (HFESA) is the peak body for the ergonomics profession in Australia.

Certified Professional Ergonomists have been certified by the HFESA and have demonstrated that they have the skills and experience to provide high quality and consistent advice and support in the area of Ergonomics and Human Factors.

For admission to Certified Professional Ergonomist, the applicant must have:

  • Completed an education program which provides a comprehensive set of ergonomics competencies

  • Expertise in ergonomics demonstrated through the provision of at least one major work sample, supported by one or more work samples or products of smaller magnitude

  • Demonstrate competencies consistent with those listed in the International Ergonomics Associations standards for competencies.

  • A minimum of four years of full-time practice in human factors & ergonomics or the part-time equivalent

Employment Opportunities

Ergonomists generally work in software development, health care, high hazard industries, transport, design, or for government health and safety authorities. Many ergonomists also work as independent consultants. Employment of occupational health and safety specialists, including ergonomists, is projected to grow slower than the average for all occupations.

Roles will continue to be available for ergonomists because insurance and workers’ compensation costs have become a concern for many employers and insurance companies, and working safely and healthily is a growing priority for many companies. An ageing population is remaining in the workforce longer than past generations, and older workers may have greater ergonomic needs.

Did You Know?

Correct Sitting Posture
(Source: Tufts University)

 

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