When should you call an ergonomist?
- When work-related injury rates for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are on the rise.
- When productivity seems to be faltering.
- When developing a new website for use by consumers.
- When creating a new tool, device or product with user-focused features.
Believe it or not, every one of those situations could mean it’s time to call an ergonomist. But which ergonomist you call could depend on exactly what situation you’re trying remedy.
Like most professions, ergonomists have their chosen areas of specialization. While one ergonomist may be a pro at developing procedures or at analyzing the setup of a workplace, another ergonomist might be more in tune with the communication side of ergonomics. So how is an employer to decide who will be the appropriate ergonomist for their specific situation?
That’s where certification can help. According to Kris Rightmire, administrator for the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics (BCPE), one of the U.S. ergonomics certifying boards, when an ergonomist is BCPE certified, it means he or she has “demonstrate[d] their knowledge, skills, and experience in ergonomics to employers, clients, and peers,” resulting in a well-rounded ergonomist who understands all facets of ergonomics.
To become certified by a body like BCPE or the other U.S. certifying body, the Oxford Research Institute (ORI), an ergonomist has to prove his or her abilities through an advanced education in ergonomics or a related filed, through work-related experience and by passing an exam intended to test the ergonomist’s knowledge. While certification can be a rigorous process, it doesn’t mean that the certified ergonomist is the ONLY person qualified to perform a specific job in ergonomics, but certification does offer an employer peace of mind in knowing that the ergonomist is extremely adept in the many facets of the field.
Individual areas of specialization within ergonomics, like product design, industrial ergonomics, human computer interface design or aerospace human factors engineering, aren’t currently part of the BCPE or the ORI certification process. But for an employer seeking an ergonomist who is certified and who has chosen an area of specialization within the realm of ergonomics that meshes closely with the company’s needs, both BCPE and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) offer listings of certified ergonomists with their chosen areas of specialization on their websites.
Want more information on finding the right ergonomist for the job, determining what level of ergonomics intervention is right for your workplace or how to sort through the bevy of products promising to be “ergonomic”? See the February 2004 issue of The Ergonomics ReportTM. Visit www.ergoweb.com/publications/er to request a free trial issue or to subscribe to the publication at a special two-year anniversary rate of only $89.00 per year (offer good through February 29, 2004).