Research associate Joohyun Rhee and student worker Michayla Strange demonstrate a device used for measuring changes in a subject’s brain activation during experiments at the Texas A&M Ergo Center on West Campus.
Laura McKenzie/Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications
Most people probably don’t put much thought into how they sit in a chair, pick up an object, or send an email.
But for Texas A&M Ergo Center Director Mark Benden and his team, thinking about the act of performing even the most simple of tasks is part of the job. In fact, just about every action a person performs, whether at home or work, presents a new challenge for researchers to solve – how to make the process as safe and efficient as possible.
First organized by The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents in 1996, the Ergo Center has been working to improve the health and safety of the state’s workforce for more than 25 years. Today, the faculty, staff and students at the center are fully embracing that legacy as they look toward the future.
“This year, we celebrate all our accomplishments,” said Ergo Center Project Manager Martha Parker. “Most importantly, our graduates.”
Ergonomics In Action
As Benden explains, the overall field of ergonomics is largely about finding the right “fit” — ensuring that the tools, environments and processes involved in a given task are well-suited to the person performing that task, while accounting for the natural strengths and weaknesses of the human body.
That could mean something as simple as putting wheels on a suitcase or adjusting a desk to a more natural height, or as complex as designing an entirely new piece of equipment from the ground up.
“There’s a lot of different things that go into what we might design, build or do to help someone perform the tasks they want to perform,” said Benden, a professor and head of the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health at Texas A&M’s School of Public Health. “That could be a hobby, it could be brushing your teeth, it could be something as important as a person who’s in a refinery performing a dangerous task that needs to be done correctly for the safety of everyone around them.”
It’s all in a day’s work for the team at the Ergo Center on A&M’s West Campus. There you’ll find experts from the fields of engineering, health, psychology and more working together on challenges like designing more functional and supportive office furniture and developing techniques and technologies to make manual labor less taxing.
“If something has good ergonomics, you’ll know it when you see it,” Benden said. “You’ve probably experienced some things that were bad ergonomics — it could have been frustrating, it could have been painful, it could have simply been inefficient or ineffective at doing whatever it’s supposed to do.”
At the Ergo Center, countless hours of work go into recognizing and addressing those kinds of problems. As Parker notes, the work of an ergonomist is often just as much about streamlining whole systems as it is about optimizing individual tools. Employers frequently approach the center looking for new ways to make their workplaces run more smoothly and safely.
“When we look at …….