“Fitting the Workplace to the worker, not the worker to the workplace”
The purpose of this page is to provide a brief background of ergonomics, its importance and benefits, and tools to implement ergonomic programs, identify and evaluate ergonomic risks, in addition to examples of completed studies and risk assessments.
On This Page:
- What is Ergonomics?
- Importance of Ergonomics
- Benefits of Ergonomics
- General Tools (
- Job Specific Tools (
- Studies & Risk Assessments
Ergonomics is a field of study that involves the application of knowledge about physiological, psychological, and biomechanical capacities and limitations of the human. This knowledge is applied in the planning, design, and evaluation of work environments, jobs, tools, and equipment to enhance work performance, safety, and health.
Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) result when the physical requirements of the job to not match the physical capabilities of the worker. This mismatch between the job and worker remains the highest contributor to injuries reported to the Naval Safety Center. WMSDs occur in bones, muscles, and other soft tissues from exposure to ergonomic risk factors over time and result in pain, disability, medical treatment, financial burden and a change in the quality of life for those affected. However, through good workplace design and ergonomics programs risks of WMSDs can be reduced.
A well planned ergonomics program has been associated with the following benefits across all industries:
- Reduced WMSD Risk
- Decreased Fatigue
- Improved Quality of Work
- Decreased Errors
- Increased Safety
An organized ergonomics program is essential in avoiding musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses, and thereby preventing WMSDs, at your facility. This is imperative since the cost to the Navy for an injury or illness decreases funds available for improving the overall workplace and ultimately decreases mission readiness.
The following tools can be used to help establish an ergonomics program, prevent WMSDs, identify and evaluate ergonomic stressors associated with job tasks and work environments.
Preventing Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders This guide provides supervisors with the information they need to be active participants in the ergonomics program.
Ergonomics Program (DoA Pamplet 40-21) This guidance outlines the goals of an installation ergonomics program and addresses organization involvement in preventing illnesses and injuries by eliminating or reducing occupational risk factors. It outlines ergonomics program requirements and describes the procedures necessary for implementing the requirements. Furthermore, it discusses development of an ergonomics plan that focuses on the identification and control of improper workplace and work process design.
Physical Risk Factor Ergonomic Checklist (OPNAVINST 5100.23 Chapter 23 – Appendix A) A tool used in workplaces to identify and evaluate ergonomic stressors. It can be used for typical work activities, which are a regular or foreseeable part of the job, occurring more than one day per week, and more frequently than one week per year.
Job Requirements and Physical Demands Survey A simple tool designed to collect information from workers to identify and prioritize work activities that may cause a WMSD. It is easy and inexpensive to administer and process the results and data can be analyzed for trends. It is a good way to evaluate a large area, can prioritize ergonomic problem areas, and can also be used to establish a baseline to determine the effectiveness of ergonomic interventions.
Workplace Ergonomics Reference Guide, 2nd Edition A Publication of the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) Work Life Wellness Program. This guide provides illustrations of proper workstation ergonomics and a checklist for implementation of these strategies as well as tips for prevention of repetitive stress injuries.
Manual Material Handling (MMH) is the lifting, carrying, and moving of materials without mechanical aid. DoD guidance is provided with respect to lifting and manual material handling in a variety of resources. Military guideline documents are useful in determining if a lift is safe and what criteria need to be considered for evaluation.
Guidelines used by the military include:
- DoDI 6055.1, DoD Safety and Occupational Health Program “Lifting is a workplace risk factor.”
- Military Standard 1472G, Department of Defense Design Criteria Standard.
- Military Handbook 759C, Handbook for Human Engineering Guidelines.
Additional Guides and Assessment Tools for Identifying and Evaluating MMH Risk Factors:
A Guide to Manual Materials Handling & Back Safety This guide explains the many risk factors involved in lifting and handling materials. Discusses ways to move materials more safely and examines hazard control from a workplace design viewpoint. Additionally, it explains many ways to keep our backs and muscle groups healthy and safe while we perform out varied on-the-job duties.
Manual Material Handling Checklist The document is an aid for the identification of risk factors associated with Manual Material Handling (MMH) and will assist you with reducing these risk factors. This document focuses on the handling of objects and not the handling of persons or animals.
NIOSH Lifting Equation The NIOSH Lifting Equation is an equation-based guideline for predicting lift safety. Can be used to compare what is lifted with the maximum recommended weight to be lifted and can help prevent work-related low back pain and disability caused by improper lifting.
Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA) A quick and systematic process to evaluate whole body ergonomic risks associated with job tasks. This tool can be used to evaluate the required or selected body posture, forceful exertions, type of movement or action, repetition, and coupling. Additionally, analysis can be conducted before and after an intervention to demonstrate that the intervention has worked and it effectively lowered the risk of injury.
Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA) A quick and systematic process to evaluate the ergonomic risks on the neck, trunk, and upper extremities. This tool can be used to assess the biomechanical and postural load requirements of job tasks/demands on the neck, trunk, and upper extremities. Additionally, analysis can be conducted before and after an intervention to demonstrate that the intervention has worked and it effectively lowered the risk of injury.
Ergonomic risk factors usually found in an office setting include poster, compression, force, repetition, duration, and temperature. The goal is to prevent musculoskeletal disorders by surveying the workplace, taking preventive measures, relying on employee input, and addressing any problems early. The following resources can be used to arrange the environment to help the worker maintain a neutral posture, in order to minimize the incidents of WMSDs.
Creating the Ideal Computer Workstation: A Step-by-Step Guide This guide can be used to create an ergonomically sound workstation for computer users, including: Illustrated guidelines on how to adjust your furniture, computer equipment, and work aids, Information on how to adjust your work area and tasks, and checklists to evaluate the ergonomics of your current workstation and for use as specification lists when purchasing new equipment.
Computer Workstation Checklist (OPNAVINST 5100.23 Chapter 23 – Appendix B) One method for performing computer workstation assessments. Provides an educational guide for the employee’s reference and a checklist intended to guide the evaluator through the workstation evaluation.
OSHA Computer Workstations eTool Provides simple, inexpensive principles that will help create a safe and comfortable computer workstation. This eTool provides suggestions to minimize or eliminate identified problems, and allows the ability to create a “custom-fit” computer workstation. Note: A “no” response indicates that a problem may exist.
Chair Selection Guide This guide provides key criteria to consider when in chair selection and can help with determining the proper designed and adjusted chair.
Laboratory personnel are at risk for repetitive motion injuries during routine laboratory procedures such as pipetting, working with microscopes, and operating microtomes to name a few.
Laboratory Self-Assessment Checklist The laboratory self-assessment checklist will help personnel identify what areas and tasks are exposing them to risks.
Welding work contributes to a large percentage of injuries reported to the Naval Safety Center. Welders are frequently working with materials that are big, heavy, and might be covered with dirt, rust, and/or grime. However, the risks of injuries this presents can be reduced through numerous job aids such as fixtures, jigs, and part holders along with other ergonomic solutions.
Ergonomics Guide for Welders This guide is for managers and supervisors at activities performing welding tasks. It provides a brief background on ergonomics and offers suggestions for improving the workspace.
The following section provides some examples of real Navy Ergonomics Risk Assessments posted on the DoD Environment, Safety and Occupational Health Network and Information Exchange (DENIX) Ergonomics Working Group website. The full site with access to all the Ergonomic Risk Assessments posted can be accessed here, however, it should be noted this site is no longer active and now just acts as an archive.
The intention of this section is to provide access to real examples that may be relatable to risks experienced in your facilities in order to see how the job tasks can be improved to reduce the ergonomic risks. For the few risk assessments below, a brief description of the ergonomic issues along with pictures are provided to give an idea of the type of tasks that were encountered, to see the solutions recommended to help reduce the risks the full reports can be accessed through the blue hyperlinks.
Heavy Mobile Equipment Service, Mobile Equipment Metal Mechanic, Industrial Equipment Maintenance and Industrial Equipment Repair, and Materials Support Areas
Ergonomic Issue Description: Workers in the tire shop are exposed to awkward postures and heavy lifting as well as vibration from hand tools. Job tasks include diagnose and repair forklifts and trucks, remove and replace vehicle tires, painting and repair damage to vehicles, perform emergency services on base, and receive, inventory, and distribute materials. Some of the tasks encountered are provided in the figures below.
Figure 1. Bending over engine
Figure 2. Lifting heavy tires
Figure 3. Kneeling on concrete
Figure 4. Pulling ladders off trucks
Figure 5.Bending over low dolly
Ergonomic Issue Description: At this advanced Composite Shop, employees are responsible for the evaluation and repair of composite airplane parts. The most difficult tasks in the shop include loading autoclaves, sanding adhesives, blasting in the blast booth, and moving large, heavy carts and tables and a significant number of employees have been diagnosed with a Cumulative Trauma Disorder (WSMDs) such as Tendonitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Bursitis, etc. Some of the tasks encountered are provided in the figures below.
Figure 1. Blast Booth
Figure 2. Heavy Carts
Figure 3. Emptying boxes
Ergonomic Issue Description: Employees in Inpatient Services review and file records, receive telephone calls, and enter information into the computer. About 75% of the day is spent typing with high mouse usage and receive 10 to 15 short phone calls a day. The current workstations are not deep enough to accommodate the computer equipment, records, and reference material on the desk (figure 1). Consequently, the greatest ergonomic stressors encountered are reaching and awkward postures (figure 2).
Figure 1. Computer Workstation
Figure 2. Pulling File from bottom shelve
Ergonomic Issue Description: Employees catalogue and prepare urine samples for drug screening. Nearly 400 samples are processed a day and the employees are repetitively un-packing samples, applying labels, transferring urine into test tubes, and moving bath trays into storage. Thus the major ergonomic risk factors are repetitive hand and arm motions performed in awkward postures. Some of the tasks encountered are provided in the figures below.
Figure 1. Processing
Figure 2. Labeling Samples
Figure 3. Reaching Overhead
Ergonomic Issue Description: Employees routinely carry heavy parts into the workshops and between operations placing stress on the back. Employees also use sustained and often awkward back postures while supporting the weight of the materials during machine loading which contributes to the strain placed on the back and restricts blood flow. Additionally, employees using welding masks have a tendency to flip them down with a quick neck motion rather than using a hand motion exposing them to neck injuries. Some of the tasks encountered are provided in the figures below.
Figure 1. Unloading Truck
Figure 2. Heavy Moving
Figure 3. Heavy Lifting