Ergonomics is defined as the multidisciplinary study of the interactions between a worker and their work environment. The goal is to design and arrange equipment or tools such that workers are able to interact with them in a healthy, comfortable and efficient manner.  Examples include the placement of computer screen, keyboard, mouse, chair, desk or other equipment in an office or height of work benches and equipment in work shops.

Poor workplace designs can present ergonomic risk factors called stressors. These stressors include but are not limited to repetition, force, and extreme postures, static postures, contact pressure, vibration and cold temperatures. Well designed work stations, i.e. fitting the work to the worker, helps lessen muscle fatigue, reduces the number and severity of work-related injuries and increases productivity.

Elements of Ergonomic Programs – A Primer on Workplace Evaluations of Musculoskeletal Disorders

UNC Asheville Ergonomics Program

Ergonomic Assessments

Computer Workstations

The way we sit, stand and move at our computer workstation can have a direct correlation to back, neck, arm and hand injuries. Often, minor adjustments in posture, furniture and reducing the duration of time spent performing a single task can minimize the risk for such injuries. With the time spent using computers at work and at home continuing to grow, it is important that everyone has basic knowledge of ergonomic principles related to the computer workstation.

Everyone’s physiology and workstation setup is unique, so the self-guided evaluation is the most effective first step. The vast majority of improvement can be made with simple adjustments by using the checklist (below) as a guide, watching the self-guided video, or requesting a prevention focused work space assessment by contacting EHS at (828) 251-6038.

OSHA Ergonomic Evaluation Checklist – Computer Workstations eTool

WSDLI Office Ergonomics Self-Guide Video

OSHA E-Tools Purchasing Guide Checklist

Work Associated with Physical Tasks

Several ergonomic assessment tools for physical tasks can be found at the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries website.

NIOSH Lifting Equation

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Lifting Equation mobile application, NLE Calc, is a tool to calculate the overall risk index for single and multiple manual lifting tasks. This application provides risk estimates to help evaluate lifting tasks and reduce the incidence of low back injuries in workers.

NIOSH Lifting Equation App

The NIOSH lifting equation calculator (NLE Calc) is based on the Applications Manual for the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation (Pub No. 94-110) and can be used to calculate the recommended weight limit (RWL) and lifting index (LI) for single or multiple lifting tasks. The LI is an index of the relative physical stress for performing a particular lifting task, while the composite LI or CLI is an index of the overall physical stress for performing multiple lifting tasks. NIOSH recommends an LI and CLI of 1 or less for protecting workers from physical stress related to development of low back disorders. Please refer to the Applications Manual for the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation publication for examples and details on how calculations are performed and what the results imply.

Applications Manual for the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation