by Jessica Szarko
As part of the Advanced Ergonomics Program at Fanshawe College, I completed my internship with Taylor’d Ergonomics. During the remote part of my internship I identified, described, and ‘proved’ best practices for everyday tasks, using biomechanics software. Later, I completed Physical and Cognitive Demands Analyses (PDA/CDA) for municipal employees, and I worked on the social media content calendar for Taylor’d Ergo.
I gained technical knowledge about ergonomics at University and Fanshawe College, but I quickly realised that there are things that you only learn from experience and mentorship.
Soft skills. I learned about the importance of building good relationships and having good communication with clients. While gathering data, I learned how to interview workers about their daily tasks and cognitive demands (e.g. how to ask questions without using leading phrases).
Feeling comfortable using data collection instruments. At Fanshawe College we were taught how to take measurements using force gauges. However, in the workplace, I had to come up with creative ways to use my gauges (e.g. when measuring how much force is used to push a shovel filled with snow, and how much push force someone is exerting when using a handsaw).
Be adaptable. Since my internship occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic, regulations and company policies were always changing, so I learned to be ready for changes in protocol or schedule. Luckily Taylor’d Ergonomics made this easy for me since we always keep everything we need with us in our backpacks (including our laptops to write our reports, instruments to collect data, extra face masks, and hand sanitizer of course!)
Writing. Composing reports and social media posts has helped me to write more concisely, and to make ergonomics concepts easier for anybody to understand.
Hands-on experience. Ergonomists work in many different sectors and this opportunity gave me real-world experience in consulting, and in the municipal sector. I also learned about other sectors from my mentors at Taylor’d Ergonomics
One-on-one support from a professional ergonomist. Josie mentored me, demonstrating how to complete a PDA/CDA, and providing guidance and feedback as I learned to do things on my own. Having a one-on-one learning opportunity from a knowledgeable and experienced Ergonomist was especially helpful for me. Receiving personal feedback was particularly valuable during the first few weeks of my internship when I was learning the ropes. Having a professional ergonomist as a mentor gave me the opportunity to ask as many questions as I needed to.
Appreciation for City Employees. I learned how sidewalks are constructed and repaired, and how waste water treatment plants operate. I have gained an appreciation for the city workers who maintain city and public spaces. I also learned some of the technical terms for various tools and equipment (e.g. the difference between a pole saw, pruner saw, chainsaw, sawzall & silky saw.)
Ergonomics can make a big difference. I learned from workers about the impact of ‘bad’ ergonomics on workers. For example, many workers told me that they regret overworking and overexerting themselves when they were younger, because over the years they have developed musculoskeletal disorders (e.g. arthritis in the hands, chronic low back, or shoulder pain). These workers encourage others to use “ergonomic” techniques when lifting and carrying items, to take breaks, and to use the tools that are available to make their job easier.
I encourage other students to participate in an internship to get the most out of their learning experience. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn from Taylor’d Ergonomics.
Notes from Carrie: We enjoyed working with Jessica over the fall term….it’s hard to believe it’s already time to post for next summer’s interns. If you’d like to bring in an intern, with a Taylor’d Ergo mentor, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.