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: In the field of ergonomics, we try to develop or identify a match between a person’s capabilities and the requirements of the job. When a beep goes off in a kitchen we must identify which appliance needs to be addressed. If your kitchen is anything like mine, there are 5 or 6 different beeps possible. Your brain processes the sound and you determine what is causing the beep. Perhaps the refrigerator door is open. Once you close the door, the problem is solved. Most of my time is spent on the physical side of ergonomics looking at actual job attributes and requirements. I identify physical demands and what opportunities to minimize the physical demands so that the job requirements meet workers’ capabilities. For example, if a housekeeper has to bend over to clean the tub and shower using a sponge, an intervention such as a long-handled shower cleaning tool could be introduced to reduce or eliminate the forward torso bending.
WHAT CAN PARTICIPANTS LEARN FROM YOU IN THE HUMAN FACTORS ENGINEERING COURSE? HOW CAN PARTICIPANTS APPLY THAT KNOWLEDGE IN THEIR DAILY WORK?
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.