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If you just heard about the word ergonomics, you may be wondering what it’s all about and how you can implement it, that’s where an ergonomic consultant comes in.
What is ergonomics?
The word ergonomics came from two Greek words, ergon for work and nomoi for natural laws, or simply to work in accordance with natural laws.
The industries’ need for productivity often pushes workers beyond limits, working extra hours in uncomfortable situations, thus risking their health in the end.
Anyone who can design a product or system, that can boost efficiency without giving the workers any discomfort and fatigue, what can we call such a person?
Yes, you guessed right, that’s an ‘Ergonomic Consultant’.
Guess what else is awesome? – That great job could be for you!
Table of Contents
Tasks Of An Ergonomic Consultant?
Also known as human factors specialists or human factors engineers, ergonomic consultants make other people’s jobs easier, less prone to injury, and yield maximum efficiency.
As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said, it’s adapting the jobs to workers, instead of workers adapting to jobs, which leads to increased performance and safety.
Use of a nail gun, instead of manually hammering the nail, and use of elevators instead of climbing the stairs.
Live The Life Of Ergonomist
As an ergonomic consultant, you should be a role model and work in accordance with natural laws.
You should have a comfortable, well-lit office, and be equipped with tools that lead to maximum efficiency while at the same time, preventing bodily injury.
You may work as a permanent staff in a company, or as a freelancer that travels to various locations where a job requires.
You may collaborate with government agencies, hospitals, machine manufacturers, research institutions, service agencies, and utility companies.
Before we delve further, let’s talk about the salary structure of an ergonomic consultant.
If you become an Ergonomic Consultant, you will be making money while giving a great service to others, and at the same time putting yourself to the most comfortable situation.
The salary ranges from US$45,000-US$87,000, with a bonus of US$513-US$9,000.
Out of 391 who answered the survey, the job has 3.9 out of 5 satisfaction ratings and the job population consisted of 63.7% male, 35.9% female.
US’s ergonomic consultants had a median salary of US$75,120/year, with US$115,000 peak, and bottom of US$21,500.
Length of experience and location often determined the paid advancement, rather than an additional skill set.
Although, having extra skill sets together with certifications will make your resume robust and attractive.
The 25th percentile had an average income of US$45,000 while the 75th percentile had US$98,500.
Senior-level (8+ years), had US$118,998/year and they also added, that the most integral skill requirement in the US was problem analysis.
They didn’t have enough data to show salary distribution, though.
As an ergonomic consultant, you are tasked to do many enjoyable assignments.
Some of them include:
1. Collaborating with Peers
You should’ve excellent interpersonal communication skills, to be able to work with other professionals like engineers, health experts, and designers.
That’s necessary for the build and repair of workspaces; new product design/redesign of an existing product, crafting or improvement of organizational structure, process flow, and quality control procedure.
2. Design Working Environments
Remodeling work environments, paying extra attention to lighting, pollution, noise, heating, ventilation, and furniture, to increase the safety and productivity of employees.
For offices where staff need to sit for long hours, ergonomic chairs are of great concern.
The chair should be comfortable, with pneumatic height adjustment, armrest, pivot base, and foot rollers.
All these are necessary, so the staff can adjust it comfortably to table height while resting his feet on the floor, lean back to relax, and twist and turn to exercise muscles for proper blood flow.
Tweak The Office Ambiance
It should be spacious, well-lit, and free of noise and pollution, so office workers can be comfortable and inspired to do their tasks.
A cramped and poorly ventilated office is not only detrimental to the worker’s health but, also tends to decrease productivity to a great extent.
A line inspector that’s tasked to sort out defective products in a poorly lit room, risks having eye problems, low productivity outcome, and eventually losing his job.
Creative writers and editors cannot be creative in a noisy environment such as offices near the busy highway, gymnasium, and children’s school.
Design Devices with Ease of Use in Mind
Design or re-design a gadget or machine, so the target users can grasp it easily and use it comfortably for extended periods.
A user figuring out how to use a specific gadget for long hours, calls for an ergonomic remodel.
Today’s android phone is designed with cognitive ergonomics in mind.
Its operation is so simple, that a two-year-old toddler if given one, will start browsing and watching online videos.
The use of touch interface is a no brainer, that phone manufacturers don’t have to bother producing ‘how to’ leaflets.
In addition, the android phone is so handy that it becomes one of the most integral gadgets.
Anyone can read the news, get food recipes, play mobile games, and watch movie series anytime and anywhere.
With a smartphone and the internet, live chat has become the new norm, and email/text messages have almost become extinct.
Someone who needs to make a technical report would choose a desktop computer, over a typewriter.
With a modern computer and printer combo, he can create a digital document and make corrections as he types, then proofread and format before printing, which is a convenience far beyond the capability of antique typewriters.
Going back to our ergonomic chair, the user should be able to figure out immediately, how to adjust its height and should be able to do it with a little press.
Improve the Design of the man-machine system
Assist in the design and re-design of machines, tools, and other equipment, so they can be used easily, safely, and correctly, therefore reducing visual, muscular, and skeletal discomfort.
A worker breaking pavements, with the jackhammer, will experience so much fatigue, however, the machine could be remodeled with a vibration management system and a soft handle, so the worker can use it more comfortably with less stress.
The common contraption we have, like the computer mouse, forces the arm to slightly twist, restricting blood flow, then resulting in fatigue and injury, aka the carpal tunnel syndrome.
The same is true for keyboards, as typing motion causes the hands to tilt up, or rest awkwardly on the table.
As an ergonomic consultant, your job is to collaborate with gadget makers, to solve these problems.
Manufactures have been continually releasing ergonomic mouses and keyboards, however, you as an exceptional ergonomist can suggest more improvements.
Risk Assessment and Risk Prevention
Identify workplace risks by observation and interviews, and assure that health and safety protocols adhere to standards.
Investigate any workplace accidents, and draft measures to prevent a recurrence.
Evaluate fire alarm systems and check fire exit signs, to make sure the whole system is working, and the staffs are able to find and use the exit, in case of an emergency.
A fire hydrant and fire extinguisher should also be available in place, and do a fire drill whenever possible.
No matter how careful the operator is, accidents still happen.
A vibrant emergency stop button in a conspicuous place will allow the operator, to stop the erring machine immediately, to prevent possible injuries and further damages.
The fuse in electrical devices will quickly put off electric sparks, stopping shock to workers and preventing fires.
Identify Tasks Requiring Awkward Posture:
Joints that are forced beyond comfortable range like, needing to extend an arm to get something, tilting of the neck upward to look at an overhead monitor, side bending to repair hard to reach areas, and crawling underneath to install car parts.
Such postures put excessive force on joints, and overload the muscles and tendons around the affected area.
Identify Tasks Requiring High Force Exertion
Lifting, pushing, and pulling any object, beyond the body’s natural capacity.
Beyond the body’s limit workers burn more fuel, resulting in excess production metabolic waste that accumulates to muscles and tendons, and causing fatigue.
Identify tasks that are done repetitively over long periods, such as typing jobs, breaking pavement with a jackhammer, and use of sewing machines.
Design and Marketing of Consumer Goods
Instead of mentoring a company to practice ergonomics, you can help manufacturers to design and market ergonomic goods.
For example, many people have sensitive gums, so you can design a toothbrush with soft bristles.
Or a toothbrush with a cartoon character handle, so moms can easily teach brushing of teeth to their toddlers.
Design aerodynamic shoes and breathable clothing, to bring professional athletes to their maximum potential.
To help firefighters to do their job well, design equipment such as safety goggles, fireproof clothing, thick gloves, and sturdy helmets.
Take it to the next level, create a system that can track firefighters’ locations, and vitals while they’re doing their job.
Analyze and interpret data, then compile them together with the assessments and recommendations.
Create manuals, presentations, and conduct training, to educate and encourage workers to practice ergonomics in the workplace.
Design Organizational Structures and Systems
Organizational structures and systems are about policies, processes, and structures within a social system, for ease of communication, cooperation, management, teamwork, and quality control.
A popular example is the company’s organizational structure.
The division of work from the president to sales managers, to sales supervisors, and then to sales agents.
A person couldn’t single-handedly market the whole country, while a plethora of sales staff would go into chaos if, their sales manager suddenly got lost without a trace.
Let’s take a pineapple production, for instance, production workers will tend to produce a lot of products with large variations if, detailed process flow and quality control procedures, are not laid beforehand.
Workers have to guess every time what kind of pineapple to get, what temperature to cook it in, ingredients to add, and the cooking time length.
Why get certified as a ‘Professional Ergonomic Consultant’?
Getting a certification is proof, that you have acquired a minimum level of competence; showing you have enough knowledge, skills, and abilities to do the job.
It’s going to enhance your credibility, personal satisfaction, recognition by peers, increased salary, job promotion, and enhance job opportunities.
With the ever-competitive industry, getting additional credentials will only do good than harm.
Do I need to get a certification as an Ergonomic Consultant?
Definitely not, because certification happens only after getting three years of work experience in human factors and ergonomics.
Then, after those required years, it’s still up to you to take it or not.
However, the argument will change once the company you are applying for, or the one you are already working with, deemed it essential.
Be careful in getting certification.
One physical therapist pointed out, that anyone can create a certification program and offer it, to people pursuing ergonomic consulting, as a job.
In case you want to get one, which is likely yes than no, be sure the one you are getting is widely recognized, or at the very least, accepted in your local vicinity or by the employer.
I want a Certification, How can I get one?
Take a bachelor’s degree first, in any of these eligible courses; bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, physiology, and biology.
Then pursue a master’s degree in biomechanics, ergonomics, human factors engineering, and/or occupational health and safety.
Just like other professions, you don’t have to hastily force yourself to the top, rather, you should start accumulating related experience, as soon as you graduate from the chosen course.
Before getting the certification, enjoy the job for a while, attend seminars and workshops, and pursue a master’s degree.
Besides, you can only get certification after 3 years, so be sure to make it count.
So, where should you get certification?
The answer depends on your location and availability.
Given enough time, get appropriate training, and exams, at a place nearest to you.
You may participate in online training classes, which promise flexible time if, a hectic job schedule hinders you from doing so.
Degree course board exam
Having the right degree will give you an edge.
A physical therapist, for example, has to pass the board exam before career practice, besides, a physical therapist’s job is, to prevent and alleviate body injuries.
Getting a related degree and passing its board exam requirement, is a wise beginner step.
On the other hand, a mechanical engineer, who took up ergonomic courses would make a great industrial machine designer.
Same with software and computer engineers, who already have ergonomic backgrounds; they will be good software, and computer peripheral designers.
Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics (BCPE), Bellingham WA
The well-known and highly respected BCPE offers multiple certifications and designations, so, if you’re serious about getting one, you might want to consider this institution.
The International Ergonomist Association (IEA), endorsed the BCPE certification program.
You can get the following certification after completing all the necessary requirements, paying an annual fee, and submission of ‘Continuance of Certification’ every 5 years.
- Professional Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE)
- Certified Human Factors Professional (CHFP)
- Certified User Experience Professional (CUXP)
If you haven’t completed the 3-year mandatory related work experience, BCPE offers ‘Associate Certification’, without the need to take a comprehensive exam.
You also have to pay an annual renewal fee but, you must upgrade to full pledge certification after 6 years.
It’s a great steppingstone while fulfilling the 3-year requirement, and preparing for the exam.
- Associate Ergonomics Professional (AEP)
- Associate Human Factors Professional (AHFP)
- Associate User Experience Professional (AUXP)
BCPE Certification Requirements
- Bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, physiology, and biology
- Three years or more of relevant work experience
- Professional certification application
- Comprehensive certification exam passing score
Canadian College for Certification of Professional Ergonomists
Backed by the Association of Canadian Ergonomists (ACE) and IEA, The Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist (CCPE) is taking the certification program, to the next level.
In addition to the requirements set by BCPE, it increased the 3 years related work experience, to 4 years.
The 4 years stricter requirement sounds attractive to professionals, who already accrued enough, but is bad news to early practitioners.
Also, the additional year may give assurance to hiring businessmen.
Centre for Registration of European Ergonomists (CREE)
As the only body in Europe endorsed by the International Ergonomics Association, the CREE grants qualified professionals the title of European Ergonomist and they may use “Eur. Erg” after their name.
CREE ergonomist certification requires:
- At least three years of university education plus a one-year related ergonomist course
- One year of supervised training
- Two years of professional experience or up to three years in case supervised training was not applicable
Certification is renewable, 5 years after submitting evidence, of continual professional development and practice.
Human Factors & Ergonomics Society of Australia Inc. (HFESA)
- HFESA (or other IEA affiliated society) member for 2 years or more
- Ergonomic related degree
- Work samples as proof of expertise
- At least 4 years related work experience
The HFESNZ accepts paid membership, in accordance with the level of education and, the experience length.
- Student Members are only required a low membership fee to support participation, but those who are already earning, are encouraged to pay a general membership fee
- General Membership is for anyone with an interest in human factors/ergonomics, who is in the early stages of the career.
- Associate Professional Members must have completed three years of academic study in any field, one year of ergonomic related courses, and at least one year of supervised experience.
- Technical Professional Members must have done human factors/ergonomics as an integral part of their job, and have detailed know-how, on ergonomic subjects.
- Certified Professional Members, in addition to Associate Member requirements, have completed two years of professional practice, of which at least one year of experience is in New Zealand.
All certified ‘Ergonomist Professionals’, whichever certification body they belong, must adhere to the Code of Conduct.
Violation of any may result in suspension.
For the reason that, anyone could make a 1-2 days weekend courses, finding one to get certification is too easy.
These short courses might not be well known and recognized, but taking them gives the impression, that you are actively learning while practicing your career.
Online Course Certificates
Are you too busy to take an on-site certification program?
You can get the certification at the comfort of your own home, by taking online classes instead, from Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), such as Coursera, Udemy, and edX.
Although these online courses are not recognized by the Ergonomist Association, professionals may use them as a form of ‘Continuing Education Units’.
For the price of US$495, Colorado State University offers an Advanced Occupational Ergonomics Certificate.
A 60 hours program, that aims to give beginning to advanced-level knowledge, skills, and competencies.
Study at your own pace within a six-month time period.
Registrants have to complete the entire course within 8-12 weeks, together with the tactical exercises.
Participate in group coaching sessions, complete the WI Ergonomic Evaluation system, and pass the final exam, with a score of at least 80%.
All price tiers are entitled to become a Certified Office Ergonomics Specialist (COESp).
Choosing a higher tier, however, gets you extra mentorship support via phone and email, flexible learning hours, and lifetime access to courses and updates.
Participants have access to all training materials such as study guides, quizzes, course activities, resources, and final exams.
If you value knowledge and skill more than a paper certificate, then this course is perfect for you.
However, you can get an original and pdf certificate, for as low as US$32.99.
After detailing the information, perhaps you’re now convinced, that ergonomic consultants are an integral part of society.
To maintain a fast-paced industry, safety and comfort should be provided to workers.
Getting a degree related to ergonomics, and passing its board exam requirement, will give you an industry edge, while additional training and certifications, will boost your resume.
You can get a salary as high as US$115,000/year, which can be raised further by accruing training, certifications, a master’s degree, and years of excellent performance.
If you have a stable career and are contemplating a job change, getting related coursework will give you a head start.
Your original career, combined with ergonomics study, will be useful for the creation of human-friendly machines, the development of an easy to use the software, and the design of efficient systems.
When is the best time to start? – The best time is now!