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THE IMPACT OF ERGONOMICS IN THE WORKPLACE

May 4, 2022

by Britney Rivers

Human Factors Engineering Instructor Sheryl Ulin shares her experience working in ergonomics.

Human Factors Engineering Instructor Dr. Sheryl Ulin has many years of experience in the field of ergonomics. Sheryl is the Continuing Education and Outreach Director for the Center for Occupational Health and Safety Engineering (COHSE). She has been working diligently in the field of Occupational Ergonomics for many years and is very passionate about the cause. Sheryl recently shared some of her thoughts and experiences about ergonomics and working in a STEM field.

WHAT ARE YOUR PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR CURRENT ROLE?

Sheryl: A project I am funded on is a grant that we’ve had from the State of Michigan from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). We’ve had this grant for over 25 years to provide ergonomics training and job analysis to small and medium-sized Michigan companies. This project allows me to go out and visit companies, collect information, help them with ergonomics or other health and safety issues, and provide on-site training. These experiences have been a great way to broaden my perspective so I understand workplace demands. 

CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT ERGONOMICS IS AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT IN THE WORKPLACE?

Sheryl: A project I am funded on is a grant that we’ve had from the State of Michigan from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). We’ve had this grant for over 25 years to provide ergonomics training and job analysis to small and medium-sized Michigan companies. This project allows me to go out and visit companies, collect information, help them with ergonomics or other health and safety issues, and provide on-site training. These experiences have been a great way to broaden my perspective so I understand workplace demands. 

WHAT CAN PARTICIPANTS LEARN FROM YOU IN THE HUMAN FACTORS ENGINEERING COURSE? HOW CAN PARTICIPANTS APPLY THAT KNOWLEDGE IN THEIR DAILY WORK?

 Sheryl: I co-teach the occupational ergonomics section of the Human Factors course with a colleague, Dr. Richard Hughes. There is a lot of information that people can learn. My hope is that by the end of the presentations learners can use the information to analyze workstations or jobs and identify risk factors that may be related to the development of musculoskeletal disorders. For example, a job could be a manufacturing workstation or an office center. A job could also be a home project. Do I really need to be folding laundry on the floor or do I have a countertop that I could use instead? Essentially, occupational ergonomics is thinking about how we can design the tasks that we are doing to minimize the physical demands. 

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG PROFESSIONALS WHO ASPIRE TO PURSUE A CAREER IN STEM?

Sheryl: I recommend developing networks of colleagues in your same age range and industry. I would also develop networks with colleagues who are more experienced and can provide guidance and network with people outside of your industry as well. There are many career opportunities in the STEM field for both women and men and I highly encourage exploration of these many career options.

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