7 Ergonomics Certificates and Certifications and What They Really Mean

Posted by Alison Heller-Ono on April 21, 2020

7 Common Ergonomics Certifications and What They Really Mean

Ergo-Buyer Beware

“Caveat Emptor” or buyer beware fits well when employers are selecting ergonomics service providers. The phrase arises from the fact buyers often have less information about the services they are purchasing than the seller is indicating to them.

Buyers of ergonomics services don’t necessarily understand the science of ergonomics, how people should work safely with good ergonomics, and what makes a good ergonomics consultant. The differences in evaluator education, training, and experiences impacts the quality of service provided, the fees charged and ultimately the results the buyer or employer will achieve. These days, ergonomic credentials and certifications are like a bowl of alphabet soup!

Ergonomics Service Providers have Diverse Expertise

When it comes to service providers, employers and insurers should be aware of the many credentials ergonomic specialists are putting after their name. There are vast differences in the ergonomics certifications offered in today’s marketplace resulting in significant differences in skills, experience, knowledge, and expertise.

Following the 1997 Cal-OSHA ergonomics regulation and the push for better health and wellness in the workplace, sit to stand trends in the office, and other legislative changes supporting individual’s abilities to work in comfort, have made ergonomic services extremely popular and competitive - especially in California.

In addition, many perceive (office) ergonomics as something “easy” to do as a startup business or an add-on service. In reality, this is a professional career path that requires substantial education and training.

Matching the right ergonomics professional to an organization's needs is critical to assure a successful outcome when designing a new technical process such as an assembly line or production area, setting up an ergonomics process, integrating ergonomics into facility planning, or returning an injured worker with a medical condition back to work.

Employers need to be sure they engage with a certified professional ergonomics consultant who can provide them with the appropriate evaluation and solutions for the desired results.

Aside from hiring a bonafide Board Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE) or Certified Industrial Ergonomist (CIE), many ergonomics service providers have additional credentials or expertise. Your ergonomics evaluator could also be a:

  • Physical or Occupational Therapist
  • Chiropractor
  • Loss control agent
  • Local furniture vendor
  • Occupational Health Nurse
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Facilities Manager
  • Safety (EH&S) Manager
  • Office Supply Store Representative
  • Ergonomic Product Salesman

With so many people “dabbling” in ergonomics, it’s time to clear up all the confusion. Aside from earning a Master’s Degree in Human Factors and Ergonomics, there is no state or national licensing body at this time to credential Ergonomists. Only nationally recognized board certification organizations (non-profit) or privately held, “for profit” organizations who offer certificates. And there is a vast difference between ergonomics certificates vs. ergonomics certifications.
In this article, I use the terms interchangeably as many do. 

The Most Popular Certificate and Certification Programs

The table below lists the most popular certificate and certification programs available in the market today. It is not an all-inclusive list. Each program listed offers varying lengths of training, testing, and submission of work to demonstrate competency to become certified. Ergonomics is an applied science, so people with degrees in healthcare, engineering, psychology and other non-degreed backgrounds can be certified. The most respected and highest level of certification achievable in ergonomics is awarded by the Board of Certified Professional Ergonomists (BCPE) followed by Oxford Research Institute (ORI). Both of these are national boards with national and international recognition.

Name

Type

Certification or Certificate

1. *Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics (BCPE)

*International Ergonomics Association Endorsement based on ISO/IEC 17024 standard for certifying bodies.

National Board Certification

  • CPE - Certified Professional Ergonomist
  • AEP –Associate Ergonomics Professional

2. Oxford Research Institute (ORI)

National Board Certification

  • CIE - Certified Industrial Ergonomist
  • CAE – Certified Associate Ergonomist

3. Worksite International, Inc.

Private Business Certificate

COESp: Certified Office Ergonomics Specialist (using the Worksite International System of Ergonomic Evaluations)

CASp: Certified Chair Assessment Specialist

4. Matheson’s Ergonomic Evaluation Certification Program

Private Business Certificate

CEES -Certified Ergonomic Evaluation Specialist

5. The Back School

Private Business Certificate

CEAS I, II, III -Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialist

6. OCCUPRO

Private Business Certificate

COEE-Certified Office Ergonomic Evaluator

7. Humanscale

Private Business Certificate

COEE-Certified Office Ergonomics Evaluator

*The Difference between Certificate and Certification: 

There is a distinction between the terms certificate versus certification. ICE defines this clearly at https://www.credentialingexcellence.org/p/cm/ld/fid=4.  In summary -

A certification program is designed to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform a particular job, and, upon successfully passing a certification exam, to represent a declaration of a particular individual’s professional competence. In some professions, certification is a requirement for employment or practice.

In contrast to certification, an assessment-based certificate program is an educational or training program that is used to teach learning objectives and assess whether those objectives were achieved by the student.

On this basis, in the above table, most providers are offering certificates not certifications.  In the case of Oxford Research Institute, they offer both certification and training, where as BCPE only offers comprehensive internationally recognized professional certifications. They purposely do not offer training to avoid a conflict of interest.

To learn more about the difference between Certificate and Certification, read here

Beginner, Mid-Level and Advanced Certifications

Becoming certified is evidence of a minimum level of professional competence, but demonstrating the necessary competence has significant variability depending on the credential selected, the course content and ergonomics experience of each individual. While certification is important to advance the credibility of a profession, employers should be mindful of what each credential brings.

When comparing and selecting an ergonomics service provider, select the most qualified and experienced professional needed for the ergonomics project to assure the most successful outcome. Be wary of the “alphabet soup” of ergonomics service providers.

Selecting a CPE or a CIE assures employers and consumers they are working with a professional who has met the most rigorous standards available. In particular, the BCPE requires applicants to possess an advanced degree in a related field such as engineering, human factors, industrial psychology or physical therapy. These agencies also offer a more mid- level credential such as the Associate Ergonomics Professional (AEP).

Hierarchy COEsp

The remaining five (5) entities are private business certificates. Essentially, these certificate courses are open to anyone who is interested and pays the entrance fee. Certificates are earned by attending a one or two day workshop, live or online and completing a minimum level of acceptable testing and reporting. These programs essentially offer entry level certifications, like a freshman in high school. These include  our COESp, or CEAS I, CEES, and COEE. We have elevated the COESp due to the extensive coaching and mentoring offered to achieve the credential. 

Why Choose Worksite International's Training

Worksite International’s Train the Ergonomics Evaluator online workshop is novel in the ergonomics marketplace based on our unique online course framework and my expertise as an Ergonomics Program Education Specialist in ergonomics course design. The course is taught by me, a highly trained, experienced and qualified professional ergonomist (MSPT, CDA, CASp, COESp, CIE and CPE). I am credentialed with the highest level of national board certification possible, CPE with an accompanying healthcare degree in Physical Therapy among other professional credentials.

Our online Train the Ergonomics Evaluator course offers participants lessons with guided practice leading to independent performance to learn basic office ergonomics theory and skills to ultimately conduct an evidenced-based, accurate office ergonomics evaluation. All students are taught to use the Worksite International System of Ergonomics Evaluation, a peer reviewed and validated office ergonomic system of analysis and evaluation. All students move through the course together at the "Beginner" level building on knowledge and practice ending with a final exam. After earning a Certificate of Completion, students in the "Advanced and Elite" levels go on to complete two ergonomic evaluations through our unique mentoring process within a 90 day period to assure a successful outcome as a Certified Office Ergonomics Specialist (COESp).

Watch our free virtual seminar, "How to Succeed as a Certified Office Ergonomics Specialist in the Age of COVID-19" to learn all about how rapid changes from COVID-19 will impact organizational ergonomics. 

If you'd like to learn more about ergonomic certifications and credentials, contact us anytime.

Train the Ergonomics Evaluator  Open for Enrollment through May, 15, 2020 Self-paced, online course leading to a   Certificate as an Office Ergonomics Specialist (COESp)

 

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