Richard began his career studying for a BSc (Tech) in Applied Psychology at Cardiff University. Part of the course involved ergonomics and human factors, which is where Richard’s interest began.
This degree was a four-year sandwich course and Richard spent his third year on placement at the RAF Institute of Medicine where he undertook human factor research and development. Richard planned to use his placement year to find out if he really enjoyed this type of work and whether it was something he would want to do for a job. It turned out that he loved the work. As a result of the placement Richard decided to specialise in applied aviation and looked for Masters courses where he could receive specialist training. Richard studied for his Masters at Cranfield University. As part of the course he undertook a placement at Air Traffic Control which formed the basis of his thesis. On graduation Richard was asked to work for National Air Traffic Control in Bournemouth.
Richard worked in civil aviation for two to three years before moving to a consultancy and working in defence aviation. After four years he moved back to Air Traffic Control as Head of Section, working in incident investigation and remained there for six years.
After several years working in aviation Richard found that he was continually asked to provide his expertise in talks and seminars to those working in the nuclear and rail sectors (as the aviation industry is streets ahead in terms of ergonomics and human factors). Richard decided to move out of his comfort zone and went to work for the consultancy he is at now, the Kiel Centre, where he would work in sectors including oil and gas, power generation and chemical production. Richard joined the Kiel Centre as a consultant and now holds the post of director.
Although Richard is working in different sectors the ergonomic principles remain the same. An example of this is a recent project he worked on at a gas processing facility in Shetland. Although this was something he had never seen before he was still able to apply the same principles he would if he were working in aviation.
On joining the Kiel Centre Richard decided to become registered with the Ergonomics Society and achieved this in 2005 (the consultancy achieved registered status not long after). Registered status takes some time to achieve but results in customers feeling more reassured.
A vacancy for the chair of the Scotland branch of the Ergonomics Society was offered to Richard and this is a position he currently occupies. It is very busy with a variety of events, including networking, visits and seminars.
In terms of work experience Richard says that there are two main ways to get experience. The first is through placements as part of your course. This will give you the opportunity to decide whether the work is for you and if you enjoy it. The other method is to make use of the Ergonomics Society work experience scheme, ‘Opening Doors’. Previously, this scheme was only for those on accredited courses (of which there are none in Scotland) and Richard has been heavily involved in opening up the scheme to allow more students to take part, particularly in Scotland.
Richard’s message to aspiring ergonomists who would like to be where he is now, is to have your own goals and you will be your own boss. You need to work hard but there are excellent rewards.
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