ERG120 | 08/05 - 09/29/2024 | Physical Human Factors and Ergonomics

August 5 - September 29, 2024 (Online)

Learn how to identify the components of occupational tasks that can contribute to musculoskeletal injury and/or fatigue, quantify the risks using the most relevant ergonomics assessment tools, and integrate that information into conclusions regarding the acceptability of risk. This course will use physical ergonomics as an example of evidence-based practice by not only covering analysis tools, but also explaining their scientific basis and outlining their strengths and limitations for various work scenarios. You will also be introduced to the concepts of optimal task design and gain experience writing reports that summarize findings and effectively support conclusions. You will be challenged to assess many practical examples from a wide variety of workplace sectors, including manufacturing, health care, agriculture and others, and interpret data from sources that will not always agree, so that decisions can be made and defended. You will also learn about the various biomechanical, psychophysical, physiological and epidemiological criteria used in physical ergonomics, and how they can be integrated during the process of decision making.

Learning Objectives

At the completion of this activity, the learner will be able to:

  • Recognize, identify and prioritize the physical hazards within occupational task elements that contribute to the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders

  • Review the most current biomechanical, psychophysical and physiological approaches and criteria used to quantify physical exposures and assess risk within occupational tasks

  • Identify and apply the appropriate ergonomic risk assessment tool(s) to occupational tasks, citing relevant resources

  • Measure and/or calculate the inputs and outputs for various ergonomics tools and interpret them appropriately

  • Address the ethics of physical ergonomics analyses and interpretation

  • Calculate the acceptable loads based on the target populations selected

  • Analyze, synthesize and interpret the outputs of multiple ergonomic risk assessment tools (approaches) to make a definitive decision about the injury and/or fatigue risk associated with a task

  • Write reports summarizing all the relevant findings and providing recommendations regarding task acceptability. Support all decision with data and relevant sources and be able to debate and defend decisions

Course Format

The course will be taught via narrated PowerPoint lectures, guided readings, problem sets, two assignments and facilitated discussions. The first three weeks of the course will focus on an introduction to physical ergonomics and the risks and assessment of manual materials handling tasks (ie. lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying). Weeks four and five will focus on the injury risks and assessment of tasks placing demands on the upper extremities. The last two weeks will introduce students to the use of digital human software in ergonomics, the assessment of demands on the neck, and the evaluation of occupational vibration.

This is an 8-week accelerated course, with a workload roughly equivalent to a full semester of 3 credit hour graduate coursework. We anticipate the weekly content and assignments to require anywhere between 10-20 hours of student involvement, depending on the individual student's strength and familiarity with HF/E. 

Photo of Michael Agnew

Instructor: Michael Agnew, PhD

Dr. Michael Agnew received a Bachelors in Kinesiology from Wilfrid Laurier University, a Masters in biomechanics/ergonomics from the University of Windsor, and his Ph.D. in occupational biomechanics from Queen’s University. He worked as a Lecturer and Assistant Professor in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech from 2007-2016. Prior, as a graduate student, he worked as a Research Scientist and Teaching Fellow at Queen’s University while he completed his graduate studies.Since 2007, he’s advised or served as a member of 25 graduate student PhD and Masters committees, published 35 scientific articles, presented over 40 conference abstracts, and prepared 10 technical reports for industrial research partners.Dr. Agnew currently teaches and conducts research within the Applied Ergonomic Studies Program at the School of Public Safety at Fanshawe Collegelocated in London, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Agnew is also the co-owner and co-founder of Work(s) Ergo, Inc.