Do you absolutely ‘need’ to be certified to do ergonomic assessments in the office? This is a question that I got a couple of weeks ago from one of the readers to the blog. This is interesting because there is a difference between getting ‘trained’ and ‘being certified’, at least on the professional side. I’ll get into exactly what this means below.
Let’s start from the beginning. Technically to be considered a ‘full’ ergonomist you will need to be certified by some sort of Board that is associated with the International Ergonomics Association, which is considered to be the gold standard. Certifying bodies include the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomists (BCPE) and the Canadian College for the Certification of Professional Ergonomists (CCPE). Personally I am certified through the BCPE. When people ask about certification its key to know whether or not you could ‘qualify’ in the first place – that being if you have the educational and work experience background that would allow you to apply.
When I applied to become certified through the BCPE there was a two step process. For those who just qualify for the education (not yet the work experience or work products) there is an exam to test your knowledge and if you pass that you would qualify for the Associate Ergonomics Professional (AEP). After submitting some examples of my work products and putting ‘in’ 3 years of professional experience I was eligible to write my full Certified Professional Ergonomist designation exam. In my opinion each exam was very rigorous – but it’s not just me who thinks that. From talking with other BCPE certified ergonomists almost most agree. There’s a high fail rate to boot too.
If you have the experience and the education, you should definitely pursue becoming Board Certified in ergonomics. It’s the gold standard. It gives you an incredible knowledge base that you can add a lot of value to any employer that you work with.
There are many companies that offer some sort of certification in doing ergonomic assessments. These are called private label courses. These exist because there is a need. I believe only a few years ago the BCPE used to offer certification in just office ergonomics, or maybe it was just doing ergonomics assessments in general. When I was researching for this blog post I noticed that the BCPE no longer offers this accreditation but I’m not sure the reason why. So what this means is that people still wanting to be trained on how to do assessments in the office need to go somewhere or find a company who will assist. Although office assessments can seem to be very straightforward some assessments will lead to confusing cascades of doom (I kid you not), which more training can definitely assist with. In many cases completion of a training program does give attendees continuing education credits (CEUs) too.
In fact ergonomicsHelp has a training course in how to do assessments in the office. I guess the thing is that technically anyone can call themselves an ergonomist. But here’s the thing. With any ‘private label’ course while they may say you are ‘certified’ to do assessments, you will only be certified via their usually clever orientated certification. And, this is different from being certified from something endorsed by the International Ergonomics Association, aka the gold standard for ergonomics. If you are interested in pursuing ergonomics professionally, I highly recommend either getting accredited with the BPCE or CCPE as this will make your more credible and give your clients the piece of mind that any recommendations that you give are firmly based on education and experience expertise. On another note if you are ever applying for a job (especially in government agencies) most will require some sort of professional certification (BCPE).
As I mentioned above the value in the private label training is that they give you CEUs or credits towards your professional designation. This makes a good value proposition for those in other health professions, like physiotherapists, who want to add ergonomics assessments to their practice. For reference, 1 CEU is equivalent to 10 contact hours at this is defined as interaction between a learner and instructor, or between a learner and course materials which have been prepared to cause learning.
If you are looking to be trained in office ergonomics there are a couple things that you should have in mind. First is the price reasonable for the outcome that they are promising. I’ve seen office ergonomic courses go from anywhere between a few hundred dollars upwards of thousands of dollars. You can also choose courses that offer either face-to-face training or online training. From my perspective there should be some sort of cost savings if you are choosing to do it online, whether its reflected in the price of the course itself of savings in your travel and accommodation. If you are looking for online training, I think the real value would be to be having some sort of ‘lifetime’ access the material. Just like if you attending an in person training program you would usually be given some sort of manual. The same should be true with an online version.
The second is what the course is promising you’ll get out of it and whether or not it makes sense with the topics, principles, and tests that they are going to cover. I think that there is a big value for an ergonomics course to get students to do actual assessments and tests to make sure that everyone is ‘on the same page’ and if anyone seems to be a bit ‘off’ this can be quickly addressed and fixed. Many courses out there either offer tests or reviewing actual assessments to make sure that the promises are kept. I highly recommend you find a course that at least does one.
Some courses say that they follow guidelines set forward by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) and/or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). That would be a plus since you know if you or the workplace were ever to be audited the ergonomics process that you use is up to par.
The specific topics that each course would specialize in vary a bit, but the main things that each training course should have is:
That is just a general outline of what I think would be important in an office ergonomic course you choose. From a bigger picture perspective you should be able to ‘diagnose’ any workplace hazards related to poor ergonomics and then take the right corrective actions to reduce workplace injuries and improve overall health and performance. There are a variety of courses available today, which is a good thing! Competition in office ergonomics course can really encourage our discipline as a whole to develop the ‘best’ quality information. However with so many options it may lead to ‘analysis paralysis’ when it comes to choosing a course that would fit your needs. To make sure that a course will be a good match look for course reviews or testimonials, what other content that they are producing is like (does it make sense, do you like the way they present their content?), and if they offer any sort of guarantee about what they are promising (you be able to do good, quality office assessments) and the process if you don’t find the course valuable (aka return policy).
I hope that this article has shared some useful insights to you if you are in the market for an ergonomics course. As I briefly mentioned ergonomicsHelp has an office ergonomics course. This course opens periodically throughout the year so if you are interested in more information about the course, just click this link.
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