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Ergonomics

Ergonomics = Fitting the Job to the Person

Workplace ergonomics is getting a lot of attention nationwide in response to a sharp increase in musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome. These occupational injuries often mean repeated surgery, intractable pain, inability to work, time off for the affected employee and ultimately, higher costs for the employer. 

Factors such as work surfaces at the wrong height, uncomfortable chairs, shelves and bins that are too high or out of reach and awkward hand tools, all contribute to increased risk of musculoskeletal injuries and negatively impact productivity. 

By adapting tasks, workstations, tools, and equipment to fit the worker, ergonomics seeks to reduce physical stress on a worker's body and eliminate many potentially serious, disabling work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). If work tasks and equipment do not include ergonomic principles in their design, workers may experience physical stress, strain, and overexertion, including exposure to vibration, awkward postures, forceful exertions, repetitive motion and heavy lifting.

Regulatory Requirements

  • OSHA General Duty Clause, Section 5(a), (1): Employers have an obligation to keep the workplace free of recognizable hazards including ergonomic hazards.
  • California Repetitive Motion Injury Standard: An ergonomics program must be implemented for all jobs with more than one repetitive motion injury (RMI), and that program must include worksite evaluation, control of exposures that have caused RMIs, and employee training.

Existing Guidelines

OSHA

NIOSH

Examples of MSDs

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome;
  • Tendinitis;
  • Rotator cuff injuries (a shoulder problem);
  • Epicondylitis (an elbow problem);
  • Trigger finger; and
  • Muscle strains and low back injuries.

Top 15 Occupations with MSDs

  • Nursing assistants;
  • Laborers;
  • Janitors and cleaners;
  • Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers;
  • Registered nurses;
  • Stock clerks and order fillers;
  • Light truck or delivery services drivers;
  • Maintenance and repair workers;
  • Production workers;
  • Retail salespersons;
  • Maids and housekeeping cleaners;
  • Police and sheriff's patrol officers;
  • Firefighters;
  • First-line supervisors of retail sales workers; and
  • Assemblers and fabricators.

Common Signs & Symptoms of MSDs

  • Swelling;
  • Numbness;
  • Tingling;
  • Discomfort;
  • Burning sensation;
  • Irritation;
  • Insomnia; and
  • Stiffness.