Ergonomics In The Workplace

Ergonomics comes from the Greek words “ergon,” meaning work, and “nomos,” meaning law.


 Ergonomics means the laws of work. The discipline of ergonomics involves studying how employees relate physically and psychologically with their working environment.

Over the last decade, the field of ergonomics gained a widespread emphasis in the United States.

In fact, OSHA is attempting to finalize a fully enforceable ergonomics standard. Until this standard is finalized and phased in over a period of time,

OSHA will continue to investigate ergonomic hazards and cite employers using section 5 (a)( I) of the OSHA Act.

Repetitive motion injuries are a fundamental reason for the current OSHA effort toward developing a standard.

The increase in reports of repetitive motion injuries has created great concern about the long-term effects of cumulative trauma disorders.

A cumulative trauma injury results from workers performing the same tasks time after time.

Adding to the problem is the fact that many workers perform the tasks while in an awkward posture or with an inordinate amount of stress placed on the effected body part.

A better method of identifying a problem task is the surveillance method.

This requires the safety professional to observe the task being performed or to ask the employees what tasks cause pain.

The best method of surveillance combines observation with interviews.

The effective interviewer will use this opportunity to not only find out what causes the individual to experience pain,

but also to find out in the individual has any suggestions on how to correct the problems.

Employee involvement will facilitate an effective means of identifying problem areas.

The workers are the ones with the first-hand experience of what is causing the problems.

 Management must explain to the workers that an investment of their time will result in less injuries in the future.

The employees must realize that the ergonomics program is meant to benefit them.

Top management should take this opportunity to gain employee involvement and develop a mutual goal of eliminating cumulative trauma injuries in the workplace.

Employee involvement will facilitate an effective means of identifying problem areas.

The workers are the ones with the first-hand experience of what is causing the problems.

 Management must explain to the workers that an investment of their time will result in less injuries in the future.

The employees must realize that the ergonomics program is meant to benefit them.

Along with the responsibilities, management must be willing to commit adequate authority to individuals so they can get the job done.

Each superintendent, manager, and employee must be subject to some prescribed form of accountability for carrying out their assigned responsibilities.

 Without management commitment, the effort to control ergonomic hazards in the workplace will fail.

Management and employees must both see the benefits of instituting an ergonomics program.

 If either group is not committed to the prospective program, then it will be a certain failure

The two groups ideally should work together in an effort to eliminate repetitive motion injuries in the workplace.

A joint effort ergonomics program will work best in a participative management environment.

If the work environment is not of a participative management nature, then working toward a common goal such as an ergonomics program may be the first step in developing a participative management environment.

In addition to cumulative trauma injuries, a smoothly functioning ergonomics program can reduce the risk of serious injuries such as amputations, lacerations, or broken hones.

A lower risk will logically result in a lower rate of injuries, thus reducing workers’ compensation costs.

Rising workers’ compensation costs resulting from cumulative trauma injuries has led to a new found awareness that ergonomic disorders may result directly from actions in the workplace.

 The developments in technologies and automation has created an increase in specialization, thus resulting in a multitude of tasks that require increased repetitions and higher speeds.

 Workers are being exposed to an inordinate amount of ergonomic stressors in the work place.

An effective program designed to eliminate ergonomic hazards in the workplace includes the following program elements:

              Workplace Analysis

•           Ergonomic Task Analysis

•           ErgonomicTask Analysis

•           Ergonomic Hazard Prevention and Control

•           Medical Management Aspects

•           Training and Education


The first step is to analyze all OSHA 200 logs, safety records, medical records, nurse station visits, insurance records, and workers’ compensation records.

 The problem areas will be the highest areas of frequency and/or severity. Key injuries to look at are back injuries and cumulative trauma injuries.

The names of the injured should be kept confidential as the information is not pertinent to the information desired.

The second step is to analyze the trends relevant to ergonomic problems occurring in specific department, on certain tasks, within an individual job classification or on particular production lines.

The accurate recording of information relevant to occupational injuries and illnesses associated with ergonomic hazards is critical.

Other methods of analysis include employee questionnaires and surveys.

 The analysis of the questionnaires and surveys should be performed by an ergonomist.

 Trained engineers, health-care providers, or safety professionals aided by affected employees work as a substitute for an ergonomist.


The ergonomic approach to task analysis focuses on four factors involved in every task:

1. Human operator;

2. Task to be performed;

3. Machine and/or equipment; and

4. Work environment factors.

The first three factors are self-explanatory, the fourth factor, work environment, is more complex.

It includes the following: company culture, labor relations, lighting, noise, temperature, etc.

To illustrate ergonomic task analysis, this section will present an analysis of the task of riding a bike.

Components of this task include the bike rider (human operator), riding the bike down the street (task to be performed), bike (machine), and the road and its immediate surroundings.

The task requires riding the bicycle from point A to point B. The demands placed on the rider include physical exertion and mental effort to control the bike.

To accomplish this task the rider must do the following items in order:

•           grab the handle bars firmly;

•           straddle the bike placing one foot on each side of the bike;

•           Place one foot on the pedal while maintaining balance with the other foot on the ground;

maintain balance while pedaling with both feet;

•           steer the bike by turning the handle bars and leaning into the direction of the turns; and

•           stop the bike by applying pressure to the brakes and using both feet to balance the bike once it is stopped.

The element to be ergonomically analyzed is the interaction of the human operator with the bike, surrounding environment, and task to be performed.

The rider must react to the changing environmental factors encountered during task performance.

This simplistic example provides us With a framework for developing an ergonomic task analysis procedure to be used in the work environment.

 The first step in developing an ergonomic task analysis is to define the task.

 To accomplish this a formal task description involves breaking the task down into subtasks.

The human capabilities/limitations and task demands should be described for each sub task.

Six to ten subtask statements are usually enough to sufficiently describe job tasks. Keep these statements brief.

However, make certain that enough attention is given to detail to assure that steps or demands are not neglected.


The primary method of preventing ergonomic injuries is to engineer the hazards out of the workplace.

Work stations should be ergonomically designed with the workers’ needs in mind. Properly designed work stations will accommodate all employees.

 Work stations should he designed to meet the needs of 95 percent of the workforce.

Each work station should be designed for optimal performance of the workers, while executing their assigned tasks.

For example, if the employees are forced to reach too far or in an awkward manner, then the chances of ergonomic types of injuries occurring increases.

When designing a work station the engineer should be made aware of the full range of motion that will be utilized by the employee in the normal performance of the assigned task (s).

Employee posture is a major factor in the types and severities of injuries reported.

It is crucial that the work station is designed to provide a range of comfortable yet correct postures.

Important issues in this area include: adequate space for knees; height adjustments on chairs; proper leg support; back support (including lumbar supports); and ample room for the employees’ feet.

A difficult issue when designing a work station is making it equally favorable to both right- and left-handed employees.

This remains a problem issue for check-out clerks. The registers are typically designed for right-handed operators.

The left-handed operator is forced to use their right hand to run the register while using their left hand to move the items through the line.

An example of an ergonomic solution to this problem is the optical scanners, used to read the bar coding on the items.

In the case of production operations, tools are an essential element. Tool selection is crucial in maintaining a healthful working environment

Great care must be taken in selection and designs of tools(ergonomic tools)to ensure that they do not contribute to cumulative trauma disorders.

 Before purchasing new tools it is a good idea to allow the workers to test tools in the workplace where they will be used over the long-term.

The workers, performing the test should be informed that they have more than one choice.

They should he made aware that the final decision will be theirs. Items they should be testing for include:

  • Is the grip designed to reduce the amount of strength required to operate the tool’?
  • Does the task the tool will be used for require repetitive motion’?
  • Does the tool vibrate under normal operating conditions’?
  • Does the grip have an ergonomically correct handle’?
  • Is the grip padded to improve comfort for the employee’?
  • Do the grips come in different sizes to facilitate use by all employees’?

All of the factors above will contribute to selection of the proper tool. After the selection is made and the tools are placed in service, it is crucial that the employees use the correct tool for the job.

If any of’ the previously used tools are still in operation they should be replaced with the new selection.

 It is also important that the employees use the proper tool for the job. For example, they should not try to take shortcuts by using a screwdriver as a chisel because the chisel was out of ‘reach.

This last point is a direct reflection of the work atmosphere and best practices in the workplace.

 It is management’s responsibility to train workers in proper work practices and to condition them to use safe work practices at all times.

If the workers are observed using improper techniques, their supervisors should stop them and refresh their memory on the proper techniques to be used.

Feedback is essential to maintain employee awareness of safe work practices.

Supervisors should be encouraged to positively reinforce employees’ correct actions.

In addition to positive reinforcement, numerous other administrative controls may be used in the effort to reduce work place hazards.

For example, job rotation is a method used to reduce stress and fatigue placed on certain muscle groups by a particular task.

The basic premise of job rotation is to rotate the worker to jobs where performance of tasks result in different sets of muscles being used.

 This will permit one group of muscles to rest while the other group of muscles is being worked.

 The overall result should be a reduction in the amount of cumulative trauma injuries.

As a last resort, companies have been forced into using personal protective equipment in an effort to reduce the negative effects of certain jobs.

Attention to detail is needed in the selection of personal protective equipment.

 If the wrong equipment is chosen, it may actually add to the problem instead of alleviating it.

Training and education will reinforce the efforts of first line supervisors in getting the employees to comply with proper work practices.

A well-educated workforce will lead to a healthier workforce. The employees are the ones experiencing first-hand the effects of repetitive motions or heavy lifting.

As a last resort, companies have been forced into using personal protective equipment in an effort to reduce the negative effects of certain jobs.

 Attention to detail is needed in the selection of personal protective equipment.

 If the wrong equipment is chosen, it may actually add to the problem instead of alleviating it.

Training and education will reinforce the efforts of first line supervisors in getting the employees to comply with proper work practices.

A well-educated workforce will lead to a healthier workforce. The employees are the ones experiencing first-hand the effects of repetitive motions or heavy lifting.

Therefore, training sessions often result in suggestions from employees that present more ergonomically correct methods of performing tasks.

It is not uncommon for employees to be experiencing health problems resulting from work place problems without realizing what is causing their discomfort.

 A major training need is the education o1’workers.

A better educated workforce will recognize the early symptoms of cumulative trauma disorders, thus reducing the amount of future lost-time injuries and workers’ compensation claims.

 A corporation may realize short-term increases in the frequency of cumulative trauma disorder cases, but will ultimately realize decreases in the dollar cost of cumulative trauma injuries.


A medical management program can help reduce the incidence of ergonomically related injuries.

 The medical management programs’ goal should be to accomplish this by early identification and treatment of cumulative trauma disorder symptoms.

Perhaps the best method of early detection is one that starts with a baseline health assessment of every worker.

The workers are then examined on a periodic basis to determine if any signs or symptoms are becoming apparent in the individuals.

 All signs or symptoms should be recorded. An analysis of overall trends according to job, task, or department should be completed in order to isolate problem areas.

The injured employees or those suffering from signs or symptoms of future injury should be treated immediately.

Records should be kept of the treatments and follow up exams should be given to assess levels of improvement.

 Effective treatments should be noted for future use.

The results of these studies should be utilized in development of an ergonomics program aimed at effectively preventing future occurrences of ergonomically related injuries.


(This sample program will focus on back injuries)

The first step is to designate an ergonomics contact, or, better yet, an ergonomics committee.

The committee should include a couple of the affected employees, a member of the safety and health staff, the human resource director, and another member of top management.

The committees’ first job is to develop awareness training  to tackle ergonomical  problem. At a minimum. training should cover:

  • Spine anatomy (basic)
  • Disc pressure
  • Correction and control of posture
  • Practical applications and practice of body mechanics
  • Effects of obesity
  • Benefits and demonstrations of physical exercise
  • On-the-job stretching exercise
  • using leverage as a lifting tool
  • Available mechanical advantages
  • First aid for back pain


Ergonomical office chair (Ergonomic Chair) with lumber support ,ergonomic key board, ergonomic mouse,ergonomic computer desks ,ergonomic standing desk ,ergonomic wireless mouse should be available for employees  in company. Ergonomic in the workplace should be top priority.

The underlying theme of this training must be individual, personal accountability.

The ultimate responsibility for preventing back injury is in the individuals hands.

Proactive ergonomic training programs can help employers prevent some back-pain problems,

but they will provide only a minimal impact unless they are combined with employee involvement in decision making and a genuine concern for employees’ well-being.

The ergonomics program can only help employees reach the continuous improvement level if employee involvement is used for workplace analysis and solution development.

The ergonomics program must be developed with realistic, measurable expectations. If the expectations for results are too high or too low, there is a chance that the program will never be implemented.

 Implementation is a crucial element in any ergonomics program.

Once a training program is initiated, a job task analysis should he conducted. Knowing exactly how the task is performed may lead to answers about why people are being in injured.

 It may be the nature of the task or it may be improper technique.

The next step is to prioritize the hazards.

 Addressing both the risk in the job (lifting and twisting) as well as risk in the person (health and attitude) are the two major steps in beginning a program for back injury prevention.

Using these measures, the tasks should be organized in order of the hazard (s) they present.

Once prioritized, the next step is to start addressing the most severe hazards, based on injury severity, frequency of occurrence, and cost to the organization.

The amount of time lost to an injury is the major cost to an organization.

It is time to move on to the lower-risk tasks, when the high-risk tasks have been addressed to management’s and the employee’s satisfaction.

The most effective control is to eliminate manual lifting and handling altogether.

 The next consideration in task redesign is to modify the task to make it easier to accomplish, through improved layout or through using mechanical equipment and devices.

 The other alternative is to optimize the manual handling method by applying task redesign and ergonomic workplace design principles.

The last steps involved in an ergonomics program are administrative in nature.

Maintaining proper recordkeeping and establishing company guidelines for medical treatment of back injuries are necessary elements to complete an ergonomics program.

Recordkeeping is essential in determining the risks and hazards involved with particular tasks.

The frequency and severity of injuries can be located from the OSHA 200 Forms maintained by the company.

The other aspect of recordkeeping is maintaining a detailed list of action taken after an injury occurs, as well as actions taken to prevent future injuries.

Establishing company guidelines for medical treatment of back injuries pro-vides a sense of organization and cooperation.

 Management should work directly with the employees in establishing the guidelines.

 By doing this, management is saying we care about you and value you. Workers tend to gain a sense of ownership in guidelines that they help to develop.

They are less likely to abuse or take advantage of something they own.

A properly designed and implemented ergonomics program will preserve property, protect human resources, preserve capital, and promote efficacy.

 It will maximize factors that promote efficacy while minimizing factors that hinder performance.

In order for an ergonomics program to be effective, top management must completely support it.

This support must be passed down through the corporate chain all the way to the line worker.

 An effective program will be the result of a combination of engineering, training, and behavioral changes.

Procedures should be developed to evaluate the ergonomics program during implementation.

Another set of procedures and guidelines should be developed to measure the status and effectiveness of the program.

 The standards used to measure the effectiveness should be quantifiable in nature.

 For example, analysis of the trends in injury and illness rates since the program’s institution

The program needs to be evaluated on a frequent basis by Supervisors and employees.

 Any minor changes needed in the programs goals and objectives should be accomplished at this level.

Any changes of a higher caliber will he taken to a committee meeting to be held on a quarterly basis.

The activities of the group must be evaluated to determine the interest and enthusiasm levels of the group members.

If the enthusiasm level has declined from what it was at the start of the program, then chances are good that the interest level has also declined.

Continued success of the program will depend on management’s efforts in keeping interest and enthusiasm levels high.

It is common for group members to become frustrated with unresolved issues or lack of cooperation from line workers or management.

Management must be perceptive enough to realize that frustration is natural in a program such as this one.

The key for management is to detect the frustration early enough to prevent members from dropping out of the committee.

The primary means by which management can preclude disgruntled group members is to provide visible support for the program.

 Knowing that management fully supports the program will provide a sense of pride for the committee members

Committee members must be trained in communication skills. If the committee members cannot properly communicate orally and in writing, then the program will not produce the desired results.

 The committee members are dealing with management and employees, therefore they need to understand how to effectively communicate on both levels.

Further training is needed to educate the workforce about cumulative trauma disorders.

The training should be provided through oral, written, and visual means. A better educated workforce will result in earlier detection of injuries and illnesses.

This may cause the initial rate of reported symptoms to increase, but a dramatic decrease in medical treatment for long-term effects should accompany this in-crease.

 This training should be a basic part of the committee’s duties.

Training committee members in the prioritization of tasks is essential. Every member of the committee will think that the issues in their departments are the most important.

 They will also feel pressure from employees in their departments to get things done.

It is for this reason that they must be trained to look at the entire picture. Items posing immediate or imminent threats to the employees health and well being will he handled first.

Committee members must be able to communicate to the employees the reasons behind their prioritization decisions.

A good committee member will involve input from employees into the prioritization process.


Once trained, management and employees are faced with the decision of choosing which jobs and tasks should he evaluated first.

 Generally speaking, items should be prioritized in the following manner:

  • Priority I

The probability of injury is HIGH and the resultant injury will be SEVERE

  • Priority 2-

The probability of’ injury is HIGH and the resultant injury will likely be MINOR

  • Priority 3-

The probability of injury is LOW but the resultant injury will be SEVERE

  • Priority 4

The probability of injury is LOW and the resultant injury will be MINOR

This is only a suggested method, an organization may need to alter this method to suit its specific situation.

Keep in mind that it is necessary to perform all ergonomics task analysis on all jobs in order to effectively prioritize them.

After the jobs and tasks are prioritized, it is time to begin implementation of the ergonomics program. Start with the job or task requiring the most urgent effort (the priority I job or task).


Procedures should be developed to monitor the program’s effectiveness. These procedures should provide a means to evaluate the program’s implementation.

 Beyond the implementation phase, the procedures should provide for development of periodic progress reports of the program’s accomplishments.

The progress reports should be provided to top management. On at least a semi-annual basis, top management should evaluate the program’s effectiveness relating to its goals and objectives.

Evaluation methods include the following:

I. Analysis of trends in injury/illness rates

2. Employee surveys

3. Before and after surveys/evaluations of job/worksite changes

4. Review of results of plant evaluations

5. Up-to-date records or logs of job improvements tried or implemented

The results of top management’s review should be presented in writing to all responsible parties and communicated to the employees.

The written report should include a progress report and program update. Often, at this point, it is necessary for goals and objectives to be revised or new goals and objectives developed.

 If either is the case, the new goals and objectives must be shared with all workers involved in the program.

Line management and employees should review the program’s goals and objectives on a continuing basis.

It is important to maintain interest in improving the ergonomics program. It is not unusual for a corporation to develop the program until results are noticed and then progress haults.

For a program to be successful, it must be continuously improved.

Ergonomics programs are only as good as management will permit.

In other words, with managements’ commitment, the programs will be effective and without managements’ commitment, the program is destined for failure.

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