Ergonomists are also known as human factors specialists. Their role involves ensuring that equipment and products are as safe and easy to use as possible.
Typical responsibilities include:
- analysing the interaction between people and machinery/equipment
- assessing the design of products/systems via practical experiments and making them easier to use
- identifying problems by observing and interviewing individuals in particular environments
- undertaking risk assessments within the workplace
- assessing the effect of work environments on employees
- ensuring that products/systems meet user needs
- collecting, analysing and interpreting data/statistics
- identifying possible improvements and designing/implementing appropriate solutions
- compiling and presenting information verbally and in writing
- assessing health and safety standards
- investigating workplace accidents
- writing user manuals
- offering information, advice, training and recommendations to clients
- liaising with other professionals such as health specialists and designers
Ergonomists are employed by a wide range of public and private sector organisations including government bodies, computer consultancies, hospitals, universities, research institutes, utilities companies, safety/consumer laboratories and manufacturing/process companies. Ergonomists also commonly work as self-employed consultants.
Opportunities are advertised by careers services and specialist recruitment agencies, in national newspapers and in publications including The Ergonomist and The Psychologist, plus their online equivalents.
To become an ergonomist it is necessary to obtain a good degree a relevant subject such as design, biology, psychology, physiotherapy, sports science, medicine, physiology, occupational therapy, physics, operational research or mathematics.
A postgraduate qualification may be necessary for some posts. A range of ergonomics/human factors MSc degree courses are accredited by the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors (CIEHF). The CIEHF also offers different levels of membership, as well as continuing professional development (CPD) courses for employed ergonomists. Higher-level members who have submitted appropriate CPD within the last two years may apply for chartered status.
Relevant experience is beneficial and can be gained via direct approaches to employers, voluntary work, job shadowing, placements, vacation courses and networking. Four-year sandwich degree courses include a year of practical experience.
Candidates need to possess good numerical, analytical, problem-solving, interpersonal, communication and negotiation skills. The ability to grasp technical concepts, a systematic approach to work and an interest in human behaviour can be helpful.