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Occupational Safety & Health



What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the science that studies how to best make the work environment fit the worker. The goal of ergonomics is to help prevent injury and increase comfort and productivity. When ergonomic principles are applied in the work environment, visual and musculoskeletal discomfort and fatigue can be significantly reduced. By making adjustments to your work area and personal practices, you can minimize the risk factors that can contribute to injuries.


What are Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders?

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) are injuries that involve the body's muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments or nerves and which are caused by a workplace activity. These injuries can take months or years to develop and can also take a long time to heal, which is why prevention of WMSDs is so important. WMSDs commonly occur in the neck, shoulder, elbow, hand, wrist, or back. Tendonitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tennis Elbow (Epicondylitis) are examples of diagnosed WMSDs.


What are the Common Office Risk Factors for WMSDs?

In an office setting, the most common risk factors that can increase the risk of developing an MSD, are excessive repetitions motions, awkward postures, static postures, excessive forces, and contact pressure.

  • Excessive Repetition: Performing repeated motions in the same way with the same body part.
  • Awkward Postures: Placing a joint towards its extreme end of movement in any direction away from its neutral, centered position.
  • Static Postures: Holding an object or a body position in a still, fixed manner.
  • Excessive Force: Performing an activity with excessive muscular exertion/force.
  • Contact or Continuous Pressure: Direct pressure on soft tissues from resting or action against a hard surface.


Examples of Risk Factors

contact pressure pic reaching pic neck posture pic

Contact Pressure caused by wrists resting on a hard desk

Awkward and Static posture caused by reaching for and holding a mouse

Awkward posture of the neck caused by looking down at documents


What are some symptoms of a WMSD?

  • Recurring or continuous pain or discomfort
  • Redness or swelling
  • Limited range of motion
  • Numbing or tingling sensation
  • Decreasing hand grip strength


How do I stay healthy and prevent an injury?

The key to preventing a WMSD is in educating yourself about the factors that can contribute to discomfort and injuries and then applying some basic ergonomic principles to make changes that will improve your positioning and the organization of your work area. You need to take an active role in preventing and injury. Here’s how to get started:

Easy Ergonomics for Desktop Computer Users
This detailed booklet includes useful information for desktop computer users about how to set up your computer workstation, identifying common workstation problems and targeting solutions to improve comfort and productivity.

Four Steps for Setting up your Computer Workstation
This website has easy to follow steps for setting up your computer workstation

Healthy Computing Office Ergonomic Set-up
This section of the Healthy Computing Website provides useful set-up ideas for your computer workstation.

Healthy Computing Causes of Discomfort
This section of the Healthy Computing website provides insight into possible causes of your symptoms.


What should I do if I have discomfort or an injury that I think is related to my work?

Sometimes ergonomic issues at your work area can start with a little discomfort. If ignored, the discomfort may become worse over a period of time and can result in an injury, such as a Musculoskeletal Disorder (WMSD.)

If you think you have a work-related injury, you should report the injury to your supervisor immediately. Follow your Department’s Injury and Illness Reporting procedures for more information about what to do if you have an injury at work


Where Can I Purchase Ergonomic Equipment and Furniture?

Purchasing items that are appropriate to the task and the employee may be part of the solution for resolving ergonomic issues. Many commonly used items, such as wrist rests, document holders, and foot supports can be purchased through our regular materials and supplies vendors, such as Staples. However, some items, such as special keyboards, mice, back supports, chairs and adjustable furniture, may need to be purchased through more specialized city-approved vendors.

Please contact your supervisor if you have any questions regarding where items can be purchased or on the selection of a vendor that carries the item you are interested in.


Where Can I Get More Information about Ergonomics and Other Health and Safety Issues in the Workplace?

To learn more about ergonomics and workplace safety, take a look at these links:

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: Ergonomics
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH): Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders health topics website. This link has extensive information about ergonomics and risk factors for a variety of occupational settings.


How do I request an evaluation of my workstation?

A one-on-one workstation evaluation is another step to get help making changes to your workstation. Contact your supervisor to request assistance.