Whether you’re contemplating on starting out with ergonomics as a side gig or doing it full-time, you might be wondering where to begin.
These are some of the questions you may be asking if you’re considering getting into ergonomics. I’ve put together this post to answer these questions (and more) and to help you get your ergonomics consultancy off the ground. Below, I share the pros and cons of getting into office ergonomic assessments versus industrial ergonomic assessments. Find out which is better for you to get started in, what they both have in common and how one can support the other.
In an office environment, ergonomics might be concerned with the type of mouse, the monitor height, the position of the wrist on the desk, or if the chair is adjusted appropriately. But in an industrial environment, it’s more complex.
It might include looking at how to raise a worker to a comfortable height to avoid extended reaches, how to prevent repetitive bending and twisting, and mitigate other ergonomic hazards related to working on a plant floor.
I think that there’s an opportunity for any healthcare professionals to be a valuable ergonomics consultant in both industry and office ergonomics. I really do. But for me, it's easier to start with office ergonomics because there are less variables that we have to account for and not a lot of things that we need to learn to be competent. For office ergonomics, all you need to get started is a tape measure, an ergonomic risk assessment tool to identify the risk factors, and a computer to write your reports and market yourself.
If you compare that with the industrial setup, there are more things you need to get started. Not only are you going to need a computer and a tape measure, but you're going to need ergonomic risk assessment tools to determine the right type of ergonomic risk in a certain environment. There are many different types of ergonomic risk assessment tools available out there, so it can be a bit overwhelming when choosing the right tool. There’s the NIOSH Lifting Equation, the Snook Tables, the ACGIH Tables, Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA), Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA), just to name a few. Aside from that, it’s essential to have a force measurement tool like a force transducer, a push-pull dynamometer, a scale, and other tools used to measure force that you see in a typical industrial job. To get one of these tools is an investment. It could be upwards of a thousand dollars to get started with industrial ergonomics. However, that's just the tip of the iceberg because you have to know how to use that tool and get it calibrated every year to make sure that what you're measuring is accurate.
Personally, I got my start in ergonomics via industrial ergonomics. I worked for one of the largest ergonomic consulting firms in the world. I then worked for a Workers’ Compensation Board, starting with participatory ergonomics programs. While I was there, I mainly worked in manufacturing and industrial types of environments. It wasn't until I made a shift back home that I considered doing office ergonomics. So I had been established for more than 5 years and on my way to professional certification before I decided to do office ergonomics. Not realizing the types of ergonomic risks, equipment, or the setup, I thought office ergonomics was going to be a cakewalk compared to industry ergonomics. So I came into office ergonomics with a sense of ease, but I was really surprised when I found out it wasn't that easy.
Industrial ergonomics is very different from office ergonomics. The reason why I started teaching office ergonomics assessments is because it's a lot easier to get into office ergonomics. I personally believe that the best way to understand the ergonomic process and get started generating revenue is through office ergonomic assessments. Once you have a firm foundation, you're confident and competent in your work, and you have everything built to have a really functional ergonomics practice in office ergonomics, then you can take on other ways to provide more service to your clients.
What I'm going to bring up now is that maybe it's time to bring another way to serve your clients and expand your reach. Most organizations today will always have someone working in the office: an administrative person, a president, a CEO, or other clerical workers. However, some offices will have an industrial back end or a shop floor, and that could present an opportunity for you to serve those clients. You can help reduce the ergonomic risks of that organization, increase their profitability, and improve their performance and operations via industrial ergonomics.
For me, oftentimes, office ergonomics is just the gateway to serve your clients with other industrial services. Many wouldn't normally think so, but when looking at the world of workers’ compensation claims and accommodations, there’s even more need for industrial ergonomics.
Now, you might be asking yourself, “How do I get trained on this?” Well, right now, the process for industrial ergonomics (on a very high level) is similar to office ergonomics. However, if you want to get deep down on how to do industrial ergonomics assessment, it’s definitely more complex. You need to invest in the necessary equipment such as a force gauge and a scale. Aside from that, you have to be proficient on what type of tools to use and when to use them.
However, if you're just looking forward to getting started in ergonomics, I really think that the best first step is via office ergonomic assessments. With office ergonomics, there's less of an investment required for you to get started. You just need a tape measure, an analysis tool or assessment tool, and a computer to write the reports. That's really all you need, and you usually have all those things already.
So, there you have it. Those are some of the things you want to consider if you’re planning on starting your ergonomics consultancy. If you want to know how other healthcare professionals are getting started and profiting with office ergonomic assessments, I have a training for you. Just click on this link to get started. Also, the next enrollment for the Accelerate program is on June 28th, 2021. So join the waitlist now to get early access to a training series that I'll be doing before the opening!
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