Introduction to Physical Ergonomics and Human Factors (ERG120)

Instructor: Jim Potvin, PhD

January 7 – March 1, 2019 (Online)

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The purpose of this course is to develop the ability of students to identify the components of occupational tasks that can contribute to musculoskeletal injury and/or fatigue, quantify the risks associated with those components using the most relevant ergonomics assessment tools, and to integrate that information into conclusions regarding the acceptability of the risk. Students will also be introduced to the concepts of optimal task design and gain experience writing reports that summarize their findings and effectively support their conclusions. This course will challenge students 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. Students will 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.

Registration Fees:

> Single Course Registration: $1,800

Register here to enroll in ERG 120





Course Packages Also Available. Click here to view available courses.

> 3-Course Package: $5,100

> 6-Course Package: $10,000

If you would like to register for a course package, please email for more information.

Course Learning Outcomes:

  • Recognize, identify and prioritize the physical hazards  task elements that contribute to the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs)and other undesirable outcomes, such as inefficiency and damage to the product or work area
  • Learn the most current biomechanical, psychophysical, physiological and epidemiological 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
  • Gain knowledge and experience with addressing the ethics of physical ergonomics analyses and interpretation
  • Calculate the acceptable loads based on the target populations selected (eg. 25th percentile female)
  • 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.
  • Create new task designs to mitigate risks and integrate other factors such as efficiency and practicality for tasks that have been analyzed. Task design includes not only the physical workstation, but also the tools and equipment, procedures, and materials used to accomplish tasks.
  • Plan the implementation of new designs.

Instructor Information:

Jim Potvin, PhD


Jim Potvin received a B.H.K. in Kinesiology from the University of Windsor (1986) and a M.Sc. (1988) and Ph.D. (1992) in biomechanics from the University of Waterloo. He was a professor for 23 years at the University of Guelph, University of Windsor and McMaster University, where is he now a Professor Emeritus. He is also the owner of Potvin Biomechanics Inc. Jim researches in the areas of biomechanics and physical ergonomics. His basic research focuses on the study of joint mechanics and muscle fatigue and his applied research focuses on developing valid ergonomic methods to quantify injury risk in the workplace; including the assessment of manual materials handling tasks and the evaluation of risk of upper limb disorders. Jim has supervised 70 graduate students and employed 57 graduates and published over 75 scientific articles.

Course Format:

Each week will cover a different area of physical ergonomics. There will be lectures each week and this will be supplemented with readings and some interviews. Problem sets will be available to provide practice with the various analysis tools covered. You are expected to complete all modules in order, including all activities (shown below) for each week. Each week, quizzes will appear in sequence during the lectures and, where available, interviews with ergonomics professionals. There will be two assignment completed separately by everyone and one paired assignment to be completed jointly by two individuals.

Register here to enroll in ERG 120