The Association of Canadian Ergonomists define Ergonomics as the scientific discipline concerned with interactions among humans and other elements of a system (e.g. the tools, equipment, products, tasks, organization, technology, and environment). The profession applies theory, principles, data, methods, and analysis to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance. It is a multidisciplinary field that promotes both health and productivity in the working environment. The coming together of biological and life sciences with behavioural and social sciences topped with technical sciences is the basic idea of ergonomics.
An ergonomist is an occupational health expert mainly involved in the designing of efficient and comfortable tools, equipments, and furniture for use in work place of different organizations by the application of scientific knowledge and problem-solving skills. Consideration of human anatomy along with safety to minimize physical strain is the working motto of an ergonomist, who uses a holistic approach to ensure the physical, social, cognitive, organizational, environmental, and other important factors for designing and modification of any system. The main responsibilities include the following:
a) Interpreting the interaction of humans with the equipments, to analyse the limitations of human body by careful observation and evaluation in the working environment.
b) Study system performance by developing experimental designs, using data collections instruments and procedures to analyse workplace risk assessments.
c) Assess the effect of working environment on the users and analyse the areas for improvement and optimization of existing practices and procedures.
d) Investigate the demands forced on the workers regarding their physical, postural, physiological, cognitive, job, work, and stress parameters.
e) With the help of different instruments, modelling and simulation studies, the physical environment is assessed.
f) Designing practical solutions to help the workers and analyse the suitability of these to meet the needs of the workers in terms of motor, cognitive, and sensory capabilities of workers.
g) Producing user manuals for the proper and efficient use of the new products.
h) Make reports of the findings and recommendations by writing proposals and presenting statistical data.
i) Employing creative methods to implement the new systems.
j) Teaching the workers about the dynamics of human body and proper work practices.
k) Investigating workplace accidents by visiting a wide range of working environments such as offices, factories, hospitals, etc. and to assess the health and safety standards.
l) Providing recommendations, training, and advice to the clients as well as colleagues regarding personnel management, and the specification, design, evaluation, operation and maintenance of the products and systems.
m) Acting as expert witness to industrial injury and understand the working pattern of specific systems and industries in short space of time.
n) Consulting and liaising with other professionals such as health specialists and designers to collect and integrate data from several scientific and professional points of view.
o) Identifying new opportunities for work.
The skills and knowledge of an ergonomist have application in different public and private sector organizations such as government bodies, computer consultancies, major manufacturing companies, defence and process companies, research institutes, safety/consumer laboratories, transport companies, hospitals, universities, utility companies, NHS. Ergonomists may also work on a self-employed consultancy based contracts.
Opportunities for ergonomists are advertised in different newspapers and publications such as The Ergonomist, The Psychologist, Applied Ergonomics and Ergonomics, etc.
There are basically two routes to qualify as a professional ergonomist.
1) A BSc in Ergonomics recognised by the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors with a post graduation degree in a relevant area such as MSc or PhD by course or research.
2) A Post-graduate degree in design, biology, psychology, kinesiology, biomechanics, medicine, sociology, anthropology, physics, occupational therapy, mathematics, operational research, physiology, sports science can be helpful in case of graduates without relevant first degree.
However, experience in the relevant area is beneficial and can be gained by approaching the employers, or taking part in voluntary work, placements, vacation courses, job shadowing, and networking. Some courses include a year of practical experience and the choice of course may affect the specialisation area as a professional ergonomist. Sandwich options on degree courses are helpful as they offer a year of practical experience.
Membership in the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors helps a great deal in finding the right opportunities, which is open to all. The added advantage in the entry of qualified and experienced candidates in this institute is their listing in the professional register with their profile being sent to prospective employers offering more employment opportunities.
Salary Estimate. INR 300,000+ for 3+ yrs Work Experience