Centre for Ergonomics and Human Factors

Australian OHS Education Board Accreditation

La Trobe University's Centre for Ergonomics and Human Factors is located in the School of Psychology and Public Health. The Centre was established in 1987 at the Lincoln Institute of Health Sciences. 

Since 2006 CEHF has been a member (under designation) of the World Health Organisation network of Collaborating Centres in Occupational Health, under the expanded title: Centre for Research and Teaching in Occupational Ergonomics, Health & Safety.

 

Distance-mode Postgraduate Coursework

La Trobe University offers a program of distance-mode postgraduate coursework in Occupational Health, Safety and Ergonomics. Both the Masters of Ergonomics, Safety and Health and the Graduate Diploma are accredited courses by the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board (AOHSEAB).

Courses offered are:

About Ergonomics and Human Factors

Ergonomics is an applied science. Its general purpose is to adapt people's activities, equipment and environments to fit their needs and capacities. By doing this, ergonomists and 'human factors' experts aim to optimise the efficiency and safety of people's interactions with their activities and related environments.

Ergonomics knowledge is applied in many different areas, such as:

  • transportation, aerospace and military systems
  • occupational health, safety and rehabilitation
  • consumer product design, and
  • manufacturing systems.

Depending on the particular area and the circumstances, ergonomists might be aiming to enhance:

  • overall system performance efficiency and productivity
  • product or system usability
  • system safety
  • individual health and well being.

Australia has often led the world in the successful application of ergonomics, particularly in the design and management of our road traffic system, and in many aspects of occupational health and safety.

The terms 'ergonomics' and 'human factors' are formally interchangeable, but in practice they have different connotations. 'Ergonomics' suggests an emphasis on biological issues and is more commonly used in the areas of occupational health and safety, and consumer product design. 'Human factors' suggests an emphasis on psychological issues and is more often used by practitioners in transportation, aerospace and military systems.

The effective application of 'ergonomics' or 'human factors' is based on knowledge of both biological and psychological factors, and on this website the term 'ergonomics' is used in its broadest sense to include both biological and psychological aspects of human and system functioning.

Ergonomics knowledge is developed by ergonomics researchers and is applied by ergonomists, human factors engineers and human factors psychologists. Staff at the Centre are active both as researchers and as practitioners.

Most of the currently practising ergonomists started with a professional qualification in another, related field. This might be one of the underlying sciences such as psychology or physiology, or one of the professional fields in which ergonomics is commonly practised, such as engineering, occupational therapy, physiotherapy or industrial design. Postgraduate ergonomics students at La Trobe University include many graduates from such backgrounds.

More Information About Ergonomics

Research

The CEHF research program and associated consulting activities are characterised by a broad, socio-technical systems approach to assessing and managing workplace health and safety risks stemming from:

  • the physical, cognitive and emotional demands of work performance
  • design of workstations and related equipment, including computer software
  • psychosocial and physical characteristics of the workplace environment
  • the broader community context
  • including socioeconomic and cultural factors.

Most C.E.H.F. research is on Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs), Ageing Workforce Issues, Occupational Health and Safety – General, and, Road Safety. Some of the ageing workforce research is conducted in collaboration with the Faculty's Lincoln Centre for Research on Ageing.

There is a strong research focus on the roles of psychosocial hazards and occupational stress in the aetiology of musculoskeletal disorders and of various other workplace health or performance problems. Currently, a major project is developing and validating methods suitable for routine workplace use in managing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders, working with both Australian and international partners in a diverse range of industry sectors and environments. Several projects are specific to occupational groups within the healthcare sector.

Working in collaboration with a range of international colleagues within the WHO network of Collaborating Centres, C.E.H.F. currently has a major role in documenting and analyzing impacts of globalisation on occupational health and in identifying potential risk management strategies for implementation by national governments and international NGOs, in accord with the WHO Workers' health: global plan of action.

Beyond occupational health and safety, Centre staff are also active in research on various Road and Community Safety and Health issues. Research on functionally impaired and older drivers is usually conducted collaboratively with the driver Research/Education Unit based in the Faculty's School of Occupational Therapy – OT-DRIVE.