Ergonomics is the science of matching working environments with the needs and capabilities of workers. Ergonomics consultants are experts in understanding how the human body interacts with the technology, furniture, and design of the workplace. The ergonomics consultant both assists employers in designing a space that promotes the health and productivity of employees as well as training employees to protect their bodies while working. Some ergonomics consultants are also licensed occupational therapists, while others hold certification through professional associations.
The physical strain of working, particularly for those who perform repetitive tasks, can damage an employee's body, contribute to health problems, and ultimately have a negative effect on the employee's job performance. An ergonomics consultant evaluates the workplace, the work space, and the tasks an employee must accomplish as part of an ergonomics assessment. The ergonomics consultant will also work with individual employees, observing their posture and movements as they go about their jobs. After making these observations, the consultant can make recommendations to assist company management and employees alike in not only creating a healthy work environment, but using it in the most effective way possible.
An ergonomics consultant may have one or more areas of specialization, in most cases specifically connected to his formal training. For this reason, ergonomics consultants will sometimes work as a team through a consulting firm, which can then match a business client with an ergonomics consultant or consultants who can best meet that business's needs. For example, a company that is concerned about repetitive stress injuries to its office workers may want to hire an ergonomics consultant who specializes in kinesiology, or human body movement, as well as a technology expert. The kinesiologist can work with employees to encourage proper posture and alignment while also recommending the purchase of desks and chairs that minimize the risk of injury to employees. The technology expert, on the other hand, can develop keyboard macros and shortcuts for employees that likewise protect an employee's wrists and hands from strain.
The qualifications to become an ergonomics consultant vary, and ergonomics consultants themselves are not generally licensed, though professional certification does exist through independent professional bodies. Many ergonomics consultants hold post-graduate credentials in psychology, occupational therapy, or engineering. Occupational therapy is a licensed profession in the United States and elsewhere, and ergonomics consultants who are also occupational therapists may hold both professional licensure and certification in addition to their professional training.