Human factors engineering is focus of Penn State online program

May 24, 2012

This World Campus program can help designers of products and workspaces create designs that reduce repetitive stress injury and health care costs and improve human-machine interactions

Today's products of daily living can be a pain — literally. In U.S. workplaces alone, there are more than 3 million injuries and illnesses annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Penn State's human factors engineering and ergonomics program, available online, can help professionals gain the knowledge needed to design products and workspaces for optimal human use, which can prevent repetitive stress injury, reduce health care costs and improve human–machine interactions.

"Repetitive motion injuries, especially in manufacturing, are a significant workplace issue. So are injuries resulting from using current technology devices," said Andris Freivalds, Penn State professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering and director of the Center for Cumulative Trauma Disorders Research, which provides training and advice on injury reduction to businesses. "To prevent injuries, engineers who design products need a greater understanding of human capabilities."

Ergonomics, also called human factors, is the science of designing safe and efficient products that people use in the workplace and in daily life. It combines medical, psychological, physiological and engineering sciences.

The three courses in Penn State's program cover product design, the physics and physiology of humans, and information processing. They are offered by the College of Engineering and delivered online by Penn State's World Campus. First available in 2005, this program has been redesigned.

Freivalds, an expert in physical ergonomics, said, "By offering the program online, we hope to make it easier for professionals to get the specialized education in human factors and ergonomics while they are working."

That"s what Richard Reed did. Reed, professor of engineering at Maine Maritime Academy, enrolled in the program in 2010. "The courses dovetailed nicely with my background in safety, human factors and injury mechanisms," he said. "They expanded my knowledge and provided a solid practical and theoretical basis for work in all three areas."

Program participants can apply credits earned toward Penn State's on-campus master of engineering in industrial engineering with a human factors/ergonomics engineering option degree, or use the program to prepare for the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics exam.

Applications are now being accepted. For information, visit the Human Factors website online.

Penn State World Campus specializes in adult online education, delivering more than 80 of Penn State's most highly regarded graduate, undergraduate and professional education programs through convenient online formats. Founded in 1998, Penn State World Campus is the University's 25th campus serving more than 11,000 students in all 50 states and around the world. World Campus is part of Penn State Outreach, the largest unified outreach organization in American higher education. Penn State Outreach serves more than 5 million people each year, delivering more than 2,000 programs to people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and 115 countries worldwide.

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Last Updated May 29, 2012