Friday, May 23, 2008

Ergonomists: Light relief for desk-bound employees - Getting a Job, Career Planning

Ergonomics for those glued to their screen ...

"Are you fumbling with your new mobile phone? Baffled by the assembly instructions of a piece of flat-pack furniture? Don't worry – it's not just you. Chances are, the designers failed to consult an ergonomist.

Most people associate ergonomics with the correct placement of work stations, but the science has a vast range of applications. Practitioners use their knowledge of anatomy, physiology and psychology to ensure that anything from tools to information displays in plane cockpits and computer interfaces are designed for ease of use and efficiency. And as technology and its applications proliferate, and health and safety remain on the agenda, it's a job with excellent prospects.

Suzanne Heape, an ergonomist with experience in a wide variety of consultancy work, relishes the problem-solving aspect of her career, and also enjoys helping people.

"In workplace assessments, you spend time watching people at their desks or at manual work stations, looking at their posture, adjusting equipment and assessing the general environment, such as heating and lighting. Employers may have thought about the height of equipment, but not about the fact that someone is standing on concrete all day, which puts a lot of pressure on the lower back," she says.

Ergonomists may also find themselves working in IT-intensive fields such as engineering, computer-software development or design. The ageing population means that ergonomists will be increasingly working on adapting things for use by the elderly, as well as for those with disabilities. "I once worked with a company that was developing a new insulin pen for diabetics," says Heape. "They are more likely to have poor sight and lose the tactile ability in their hands, so we had to look at the colour saturation on the pens and ensure that the buttons they use to key in the amounts of insulin all felt different and were placed so they could find them easily."

Collaborating with workers in other professions can be challenging, because some lack awareness of the importance of ergonomics, she says. But it can also be rewarding. "Sometimes you come up with a solution to something that's really been bugging them, and they can see how it makes their job easier and benefits their designs."    (Continued via The Independent)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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