Important Info
What is Ergonomics?

At its simplest definition ergonomics literally means the science of work. So ergonomists, i.e. the practitioners of Ergonomics, study work, how work is done and how to work better.

Ergonomics is a science concerned with the ‘fit’ between people and their work.It takes account of the worker’s capabilities and limitations in seeking to ensure that tasks, equipment, information and the environment suit each worker.

Related topics

Office Ergonomics – Overview

Back pain is one of the most common office/work-related injuries and is often caused by ordinary work activities such as sitting in an office chair or heavy lifting. Applying ergonomic principles – the study of the workplace as it relates to the worker – can help prevent work-related back pain and back injury and help maintain a healthy back.

The goal of an ergonomics program in industry is to adapt the workplace to a specific worker, dependent on the job description, required tasks and physical make up of the employee performing those tasks.

How do I know when I need help in ergonomics?

Many sources of information can indicate that your workplace can benefit from a good ergonomics program. Some 'triggers' that suggest that you have ergonomics related problems include the following:

  • Employees in your workplace, or in certain specific work areas, are experiencing soft-tissue injuries (WMSDs) such as tendonitis, back injuries, sore muscles, etc. These are all indicators that the job demands are excessive due to one or a combination of risk factors (i.e. force levels, work postures, repetitive actions, long durations, and/or psychosocial stressors).
  • Accidents and injuries may result from inadequate clearances, design of controls and tools, poor design of stairways, lack of appropriate lighting, poor visibility, etc. These are all ergonomics issues and contribute to many types of accidents (e.g. slips and falls, cuts and bruises, struck by/on, caught on/in injuries, etc.)
  • High rates of general absenteeism and/or worker turn-over. These can be indicators of high levels of physical or mental demand, poor workplace design, and/or poor organizational design.
  • High number of mistakes, or requirement for rework on products due to poor quality. These are often the result of difficult work processes, high workloads and fatigue, inadequate communication/information, poor visibility, etc.
  • Poor, or declining, productivity over the course of a shift or over a series of shifts can also mean that the work is not well designed for workers.

Aside from detecting these triggers, you should consider the benefits to be gained from applying ergonomics proactively in order to prevent problems before they occur. This is the most effective and resource-efficient way to incorporate ergonomics into your workplace! Address ergonomics:

  • whenever you are building or buying something new for the workplace, including premises, workstations, equipment, tools, etc.
  • whenever you are planning to modify existing premises, workspaces, jobs or equipment.
  • whenever you are deciding how to organize job tasks and duties.
  • whenever you are planning on making changes to the rate of production, the products being produced, or the work methods used.
What is an "ergonomic injury"?

Input from the recent ergonomics forums demonstrated to OSHA that there are a wide variety of opinions on how the Agency should define an ergonomic injury and that the definition adopted by OSHA depends on the context. Ergonomic injuries are often described by the term "musculoskeletal disorders" or "MSDs." This is the term of art in scientific literature that refers collectively to a group of injuries and illnesses that affect the musculoskeletal system; there is no single diagnosis for MSDs. As OSHA develops guidance material for specific industries, the agency may narrow the definition as appropriate to address the specific workplace hazards covered. OSHA will work closely with stakeholders to develop definitions for MSDs as part of its overall effort to develop guidance materials.

Are all MSDs work-related?

No. MSDs can and do develop outside the workplace.

How do you determine whether MSDs are work-related?

The determination of whether any particular MSD is work-related may require the use of different approaches tailored to specific workplace conditions and exposures. Broadly speaking, establishing the work-relatedness of a specific case may include:

-- taking a careful history of the patient and the illness;
-- conducting a thorough medical examination; and
-- characterizing factors on and off the job that may have caused or contributed to the MSD.

Why do hands hurt from using a computer?

Typing and using a mouse involve repetitive movement at the wrists and hands. This results in decreased blood supply to the muscles of your hands and wrists, causing them to cramp. It can possibly lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

How does one diagnose Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

If you experience pain, tingling and numbness in the thumb, index and middle fingers or weakness and swelling in the wrist and hand, please consult your Physician or Physical Therapist.

Why do you get neck and shoulder pain?

A Forward Head Posture causes a decreased blood supply to the neck region and increases the weight of the head on the postural muscles of the neck threefold. Rounded Shoulders Posture compresses the tendons in the front of the shoulder, causing pain in the shoulder and arm.

Why do frequent headaches occur during and after working at the computer?

The Forward Head Posture can be the result of the computer monitor being placed too far away. As a result, computer users move their heads forward over their neck to see the screen. Visual glare from a computer monitor can also cause headaches.

Is it okay to have the computer monitor off to my left side?

Having the monitor off to the left will cause the postural muscles on the left side of your neck to tighten and on the right side to elongate. This muscular imbalance will eventually lead to difficulty turning your head to the right. Pain and discomfort may also result if a nerve impingement ensues.

After maintaining a perfect posture all day will all aches and pains go away?

Even perfect posture is not good if it is maintained all day. Sustained posture, although perfect, will cause the postural muscles to fatigue because the muscles never receive a break from posturing the body all day. If you sit all day, occasionally stand or adjust your seat or desk height ever so slightly to change the postural position of the body.

Are exercises important during a work day?

If you take just two to three minutes every hour to perform some very simple stretching exercises, the likelihood of you feeling pain at the end of the day greatly decreases. Exercise helps restore blood flow to working tissues, allowing the muscle greater endurance to perform the work at hand.

Why do occasion muscle spasms occur?

A muscle spasm is a protective mechanism your body employs to prevent an injury from occurring. A spasm is caused by an insufficient blood flow to the working muscles. It is your body’s way of telling you to slow down or stop what you are doing in order to rest the muscle.