Job descriptions and industry overviews

Ergonomist job description

16 Oct 2023, 11:01

Studies the relationships between people and their workplace and equipment in order to improve human interaction with processes and systems.

Two people on laptops

Ergonomists are concerned with the comfort and health of an organisation's employees and the efficiency of its work. They study the relationships between people and their workplace and equipment in order to improve human interaction with processes and systems. They work in various areas including equipment design, consultancy and report and manual production to aid the safe running of business operations.

Ergonomists understand how humans behave and react in certain situations and apply this knowledge to the design of systems and equipment. The results are working environments which accommodate optimum human operation in terms of health, safety, comfort and performance. Industries rely on the well-being of their workforce; as a result good ergonomical awareness is becoming a vital component of successful business practice and ergonomists are in high demand.

Ergonomists implement strategies in three main areas: physical (working postures, materials handling, repetitive movements, work related musculoskeletal disorders), cognitive (mental workload, decision-making, skilled performance, human-computer interaction, human reliability, work stress) and organisational (communication, human resource management, community ergonomics, cooperative work, new work paradigms, teamwork, timetables).

Work activities for an ergonomist

  • Examining and evaluating processes, machinery and equipment used in the workplace to identify suitability to users.
  • Redesigning the layout of an office and helping to choose suitable furniture.
  • Reviewing system designs to check for adherence to ergonomic specifications.
  • Briefing vendors on design requirements.
  • Teaching ergonomic principles to management and employees.
  • Writing reports and liaising with other safety team members.

Work conditions

Travel: during work day is common as well as working away from home.
Working hours: regular extra hours but not weekends or shifts.
Location: while opportunities exist mainly in towns or cities throughout the country as a practising ergonomist, you could find yourself outside in all weathers or in office and production environments with employees of all levels.
Opportunities for self-employment: freelance work is possible.

Typical employers:

  • Large multinational manufacturers
  • Occupational health and safety consultancies
  • Health Service Executive
  • Local authorities.

Career development in ergonomics

Promotion tends to be dependent on the size of the organisation and individual performance. Typical career advancement would be to safety manager or senior consultant. Many ergonomists specialise in this field after gaining experience in other areas such as work-study, psychology, engineering, building or architecture.

Specific degree subjects required

Open to graduates of all disciplines.

Other relevant degree subjects:

  • Anatomy
  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical education
  • Physiology
  • Physiotherapy
  • Psychology
  • Science.

Postgraduate study in ergonomics

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is a requirement as there is currently no undergraduate degree in Ergonomics in Ireland and only one BSc (Hons) Ergonomics (Human Factors Design) undergraduate degree course in ergonomics in the UK at Loughborough University.

The following programmes are accredited for Registered Membership of the Irish Ergonomics Society:

  • University of Limerick: Graduate Dip/Master of Technology Safety and Ergonomics
  • NUI Galway: Masters of Applied Science Occupational Safety Engineering and Ergonomics

Other ergonomics/human factors/applied psychology related courses in Ireland:

  • University of Limerick: Master of Science/Master of Arts in Interactive Media.

Skills and qualities of an ergonomist

  • Knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, psychology, mathematics and statistics, design methods, work organisation and industrial sociology.
  • Good communication skills and an analytical approach to problem solving.
  • Keen interest in people and the ability to work as part of a team including working closely with designers, engineers, architects and operational researchers.
  • Creative ability and an imaginative nature.

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