Ergonomics is the study of how to improve the fit between the physical demands of the workplace and the employees who perform the work. That means considering the variability in human capabilities when selecting, designing, or modifying equipment, tools, work tasks, and the work environment. Employees’ abilities to perform physical tasks may vary because of differences in age, physical condition, strength, gender, stature, and other factors.
What are the hazards associated with ergonomics?
Increased physical demands on workers due to awkward work postures, repetitive and forceful motions, and vibration can lead to the development of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
What are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)?
MSDs include injuries to the nerves, tendons, muscles and supporting structures of the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck and low back.
What can I do to protect myself?
Workers should try to take breaks to allow soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) to rest throughout the day. Changing the work area or process to improve posture, reduce force or limit repetition can reduce stress on the body. Additionally, rotating to another task that involves use of a different motion or body part can help if done correctly.
How do I set up a safe and healthy workstation when teleworking?
Staying healthy and productive when working from home starts with a good set-up of your main work area. But even if you have a comfortable set-up, you should still change positions at least hourly. The advice from experts is the same whether you’re working from home or the office: change positions frequently, because “your best position is your next position.”
1) Ensure your chair is comfortable and working appropriately:
- Create a standing station and change positions from time to time
- Ensure your keyboard, mouse and monitor allow your arms, wrists and neck to be at comfortable positions
- Your head should be level, shoulders relaxed, wrists straight and lower back and feet supported
2) Take care of your neck and shoulders:
- Align the monitor’s center with the middle of your body
- Place your monitor where you can easily see it while using your chair’s backrest (this will depend on things like monitor size, prescription glasses, etc.)
- The top of the monitor should be at eye level
- If you wear bifocals, position the monitor so you don’t have to raise your chin to see clearly
- Adjust your chair or use a footrest if needed
3) Take care of hands and arms:
- If your mouse hand or arm get uncomfortable, switch hands
- You can change your mouse settings so index finger click buttons make sense
- Look into other kinds of pointing devices
4) Give yourself a break:
- Set reminders to take breaks and move around
- Refocus your eyes on something 20 feet away every 20 minutes
- Purposely blink often
5) Make your workspace work for you:
- Ensure you have plenty of leg space, free from obstacles and hazards
- Keep frequently used tools close to you
- Remove tripping hazards
- Use a headset or speakerphone if you can
- For laptops use appropriate accessories, like separate keyboard, mouse and monitor, as much as possible
What resources are available to assist employers?
Training and Outreach Services
An ergonomics presentation is available to assist employers in training their staff. The presentation should be modified to address site-specific conditions and hazards. In addition, the ergonomic awareness pre-recorded webinar can also be used for employee training.
Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC). The
The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.
Which standards apply?
There are no OSHA or N.C. occupational safety and health standards for ergonomics. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic.
General Duty Clause
In certain circumstances, ergonomic hazards may be cited using N.C. General Statute 95-129(1), commonly referred to as the “General Duty Clause.”
Other Applicable Standards
The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.
Where can I learn more?
Industry Guide 48 - OSHA Construction Industry Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards in construction.
Industry Guide 49 - OSHA General Industry Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training, includes requirements for standards in general industry.
Chapter 17 of the OSH Field Operations Manual discusses the enforcement procedures to be followed when conducting ergonomic inspections.
If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to email@example.com or by calling 919-707-7876.