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Physical Human Factors and Ergonomics

Ended Oct 3, 2022
4.5 credits

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Full course description

Now Registering for August 8 - October 2, 2022.

Learn how 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. This course will use physical ergonomics as an example of evidence-based practice by not only covering the 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.


Course Learning Outcomes:

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


Instructor Information:

Jim Potvin, PhD, CCPE – Dr. 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. Dr. Potvin 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 over 70 graduate students, employed 60 graduates, and published over 90 scientific articles.


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. 


This course is offered on a pass / fail basis for continuing education credit. Learners must obtain a final grade of 70% or higher, and a Final Exam grade of 60% or higher, to pass the course and to obtain a Certificate of Completion.

Certified Professional Ergonomists

Certified Professional Ergonomists may be eligible to earn up to 45 contact hours for this course. Visit for more information.

Certified Athletic Trainers

COEH (BOC AP#: P10242) is approved by the Board of Certification, Inc. to provide continuing education to Certified Athletic Trainers. This program is eligible for a maximum of 45 Category A hours. ATs should claim only those hours actually spent in the educational program. 

Industrial Hygienists

ABIH® Diplomates may be eligible to earn up to 45 contact hours for this course. Visit maintain-certification/cm-credit-education-events for more information.

Certified Safety Professionals

Certified Safety Professionals may be eligible to earn up to 45 contact hours for this course. Visit for more information.

Registered Nurses

Provider approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider Number 12983, for 45 contact hours.

Registered Environmental Health Specialists

This course has been approved for 45 contact hours, REHS. The Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) UC Berkeley is a Registered Environmental Health Specialist (REHS) Program Continuing Education Accreditation Agency approved by the California Department of Public Health.

Occupational Therapists

Occupational Therapists may be eligible to earn up to 45 contact hours for this course. Visit for more information.



Registration Cancellation Policy

Written cancellation notification must be received no later than one week before the start date of an Online Ergonomics Program class in which you are registered in order to qualify for a refund, less a $65.00 administrative fee per registration. Substitute attendees are welcome.

Transfer Policy

You can transfer your registration and payment to a later Online Ergonomics Program class one (1) time with no penalty within ten days of the start date of a class. Subsequent transfers will incur a $65.00 administrative fee per registration. Course Credits must be used within 12 months and are not transferable.

Course Withdrawal Policy

Within the first ten days of an Online Ergonomics Program class, you may withdrawal from the class and receive a refund, less 10% of your course payment. There is no tuition refund following the tenth day of the start date of a class.

Class Cancellation Policy

In the unlikely event that an Online Ergonomics Program class must be cancelled, the entire submitted registration fee will be refunded without further liability on the part of COEH. COEH is not responsible for travel or other costs incurred by students for canceled classes.