Introduction to Physical Ergonomics and Human Factors (ERG120)

Instructor: Jim Potvin, PhD

January 7 – March 1, 2019 (Online)

To go back to the overview page, click here
Click here to view the Frequently Asked Questions page


This 8- week, asynchronous online course teaches students 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. The 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. 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.

Get up to $500 off! Click here to learn more about group discounts and our referral program. Scholarships are also available, click here to learn more.


Course Learning Outcomes:

  • Recognize, identify and prioritize the physical hazards within occupational task elements that contribute to the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Learn 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
  • Gain experience with addressing 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.
  • 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.

Instructor Information:

Jim Potvin, PhD


Jim 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 over 70 graduate students and employed 60 graduates and published over 80 scientific articles.

Course Format:

The course will be taught via narrated PowerPoint lectures, guided readings, problem sets, two assignments and facilitated discussions. Additionally, an ergonomics project will provide each student with an opportunity to apply their skills in analyzing a real occupational task. 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 4 and 5 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 biomechanics software in ergonomics, the assessment of demands on the neck and the evaluation of occupational vibration.


Register here to enroll in ERG 120






Certified Professional Ergonomists

Certified Professional Ergonomists 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.

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.

Safety Professionals

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

Frequently Asked Questions