The History of the Ergonomics & Safety Program
The Ergonomics and Safety (E&S) Program started in approximately 1978 as one of the original graduate programs of the University of Utah Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (RMCOEH). The RMCOEH is a NIOSH-funded Education and Research Center (ERC) and was established to meet the need for comprehensive occupational and environmental safety and health programs.
The academic home for the Ergonomics Program was the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in the College of Engineering but several courses were also taken through the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. Prof. D. Jeff Burton was a part-time faculty and the original E&S Program Director. Prof. Burton managed the program, which offered an M.S. degree in Industrial Engineering, until 1986 when Prof. Don Bloswick arrived from the University of Michigan and began serving as E&S Program Director.
Simultaneous with Prof. Bloswick’s arrival in 1986, the University announced a two-year phase out of the Industrial Engineering component of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. The elimination of Industrial Engineering resulted in a major refocus of the E&S Program to more of a mechanical-engineering emphasis relating to whole-body biomechanical modelling. Fortunately, at the same time, RMCOEH received NIOSH funding for an engineering Ph.D. degree which increased the stature of the E&S Program within the newly named Department of Mechanical Engineering. This permitted the development of a well-equipped Ergonomics and Safety Laboratory.
In addition to the emphasis on whole-body biomechanical modelling, the E&S Program developed an emphasis in Rehabilitation Engineering and developed a reputation as a group that could help people with disabilities from both therapeutic and recreational standpoints. Several patents emerged from work in this area. E&S faculty and students have developed collaborative research relationships with faculty members in the College of Medicine, College of Nursing, Department of Bioengineering, and Division of Physical Therapy.
Prof. Bloswick retired as Director of the E&S Program. In 2015, Prof. Andrew Merryweather succeeded Prof. Bloswick as Director of the E&S Program.
Since its start, the E&S Program has graduated over 100 M.S. and Ph.D. students, accomplished externally funded research totaling over $10 million, and published nearly 100 refereed journal articles and book chapters.