About the Program

The Ergonomics Program is affiliated with the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, a University of California umbrella organization that links faculty and research programs with research interest in occupational health from the Berkeley, Davis and San Francisco campuses. The Program's laboratory is located at U.C. Berkeley's Richmond Field Station, a research station administered by the College of Engineering.

The Program has research, graduate training, continuing education and consulting components. Research is conducted with faculty from multiple departments.

The multidisciplinary composition of the affiliated faculty and students is recognized as necessary for investigating risk factors and design solutions for chronic musculoskeletal disorders and engineering solutions. The Program staff includes a biostatistician, research engineers, administrative assistant, occupational medicine fellows, engineering post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate engineering students. The doctoral students are from mechanical engineering (UCB), bioengineering (UCB/UCSF), environmental health sciences (UCB), and medicine (UCSF).

The Ergonomics Program conducts research to measure risk factors for chronic musculoskeletal disorders of the upper extremities and to evaluate hand tools and other engineering solutions designed to prevent these disorders. A principal focus of research is on understanding hand and arm biomechanics during computer use. The research is funded by grants from private industry, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the National Institute of Health.

The Program's laboratory occupies 3,000 square feet of research and meeting space. Joint motion and posture measurements are made using an Optotrak motion analysis system. Forces and stress are measured using force transducers, accelerometers, or custom built strain gauge transducers or estimated using a telemetric electromyography system. Tissue pressure experiments (pressure inside the carpal tunnel) utilize an automated amplifier system for measuring fluid and blood pressures. Outputs from these devices are collected and analyzed in real-time using multiple workstations with built-in analog/digital conversion. Device prototypes and various research tools are designed in SolidWorks 3D CAD software and subsequently constructed in our machine and electronics shops.