An ergonomics pioneer in Nigeria, a master’s student in England, and one of our top consultants, Tobi Durowoju has the unique distinction of practicing ergonomics on three continents. “You learn to be quite innovative in Nigeria because the furniture and equipment options are more limited. So you have less resources to solve the same problem,” says Tobi, who joined EWI Works in 2019. “In Canada, you have equipment options for almost anything, but maintaining an innovative outlook is the key to success.”So, that’s what he did. After graduation Tobi started working at a clinic in the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital before taking on a position with the Hospital Management Board, the ministry overseeing Nigeria’s health care institutions. In his role there he had the chance to lead preventative health care policies for the government with a focus on ergonomics awareness and training, as well as outreach on the importance of assessments. At the time, however, Tobi, like most others in Nigeria, thought ergonomics primarily focused on chairs. And, as he was working in a hospital environment, many of the patients he saw already had a musculoskeletal injury. “I wanted the opportunity to think more and be creative,” says Tobi, who began to realize the hospital setting isn’t where he saw himself long term. After some research, Tobi landed on Loughborough University’s Master’s of Ergonomics and Human Factors, following in the footsteps of his future EWI Works colleagues Donald MacDonald and Andrea Opyr. The one year program is intense and hardly rivaled by any other university.“It’s a short program so at first it was a bit overwhelming. I realized just how much science is behind this field. You quickly learn that chairs and equipment are important, but they’re only one small part of the bigger picture,” says Tobi. In keeping with his background in hospitals, Tobi specialized in Ergonomics for Health and Community Care. One year later he took his first gig as an ergonomist with Quintil Technologies, working to prevent the kind of injuries he used to treat.
Lessons From an Ergonomist Who’s Practiced on Three ContinentsBorn and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Tobi began his career as a physiotherapist after completing his degree in 2011. “I wanted a profession that would put smiles on people’s faces,” says Tobi. “ I find happiness in other people’s happiness.” It all started with a conversation with a cousin who first told Tobi about ergonomics and suggested he start by studying physiotherapy.
Bringing Ergonomics Back to NigeriaWhile he loved his work, Tobi felt a calling to return to Nigeria where he would soon build a reputation as a pioneer in the field of ergonomics. “There are no OHS laws in Nigeria, which means a major focus for ergonomists is outreach and raising awareness,” says Tobi. “You really have to push for it there.” And that’s exactly what he did. Tobi began reaching out to safety organizations and attending weekly sessions put on by the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. It soon paid off as he won a contract from Duergo Ltd. to train and lead an ergonomics and physiotherapy team. On top of that he started receiving invitations to speak at conferences, seminars, and on the radio. His message was loud and clear: ergonomics isn’t just about safety, it’s also about the designs that make things safe and inclusive.
Tobi, center, at the 6th National Ergonomics Conference in Nigeria.Pioneering the movement to look beyond chairs when doing assessments, Tobi designed a website for the Ergonomics Society of Nigeria, helping it get recognized by the International Ergonomics Association. As his career progressed, so did his personal life. After getting married and thinking about starting a family, Tobi once again questioned whether he was in the right place.