Fact Sheet

Ergonomics

Ergonomics is defined as the study of workplace equipment design or how to arrange and design devices, machines, or workspace so that people and things interact safely and most efficiently. Ergonomics is also called human-factors analysis or human-factors engineering. Ergonomic design facilitates harmony between the person and person’s work environment by addressing individual needs and characteristics, and by positioning the body so there is less stress and strain on it while performing required tasks. When adjusting office furnishings and equipment, focus on the optimal “fit” between work environment and individual work style.

Since a poorly-designed workstation can slow staff down, increase their stress, and contribute to chronic conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, it is important each person organizes workspace to keep twists, turns and uncomfortable movements to an absolute minimum. Be sure that they have enough desk space to comfortably accommodate the materials and equipment that are part of their jobs; i.e., books, papers, calculators, and computers, and keep the items they use most frequently use closer to them.

Failure to pay attention to ergonomic issues can result in a wide array of workplace injuries, some permanently debilitating. Examples of injuries include:

Recommendations

Review and analyze injury and illness records. Look for a pattern of ergonomic-related injuries in specific jobs or tasks.

Analyze jobs or tasks to isolate potential ergonomic problems before employee injuries happen. Find out if any jobs create ergonomic risks that may contribute to musculoskeletal disorders.

Seek employee viewpoints about the existence of ergonomic problems related to their particular jobs or tasks.

Be aware of common contributing conditions within job classifications in the public entity. If other entities providing the same service have ergonomic-related problems, it is possible these potential problems will affect your entity, too. Get information from others of same size and scope through associations or other professional networks, such as electronic lists.

Resources

ISO 9241, Ergonomics Requirements for Office work with Visual Display Terminals (VDTs): Part 5: Workstation Layout and Postural Requirements. International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, Switzerland

Lifting and Stretching Fact Sheet

NIOSH Elements of Ergonomics Programs, A Primer Based on Workplace Evaluations of Musculoskeletal Disorders

OSH Answers: Office Ergonomics, Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety and Health

OSH Answers: Working in a Sitting Position, Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety and Health

OSH Answers: Working in a Standing Position, Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety and Health

OSH Answers: Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WRMDs)—Risk Factors, Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety and Health

OSHA Effective Ergonomics: Strategy for Success

Office of Health and Safety, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Employee Prevention Through Protection manual

Setting up an Ergonomically Sound Computer Workstation