Ergonomics is an applied science concerned with the characteristics of people that need to be considered in designing and arranging things that people use in order that people and things will interact most effectively and safely.

Not Just a Workplace Problem We encounter ergonomics wherever we go, not just on the job. Manufacturers have conducted a great deal of research in order to make car seats as comfortable as possible; to make airplanes safer; to fashion tools for the population that will use them and a host of other things. Currently there is no Federal OSHA ergonomics standard. Ergonomic problems observed in the workplace are citable by OSHA using the general duty clause at section 5, paragraph (a)(1) of the OSHAct.

Ergonomics encompass many different sciences such as:

  • Psychology
  • Physiology
  • Anthropometry
  • Kinesiology
  • Engineering
  • Biomechanics

Common Conditions Related to Poor Ergonomics Improper ergonomics can result in a number of conditions such as back injury, strains, headaches and various cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs). Some of the more common CTDs include:

  • Raynaud’s disease
  • Tendonitis
  • Tenosynovitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

Other Ergonomic Concerns Back Injuries: Nearly 80% of Americans will experience back pain. The back, like the rest of the body, grows weak if it does not receive exercise. When the back gets weak it puts the worker at greater risk when there is a need to lift, push, pull or simply bend over.

To protect the back, workers should exercise but they should also be taught the proper way to lift materials. Although not widely used, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published an equation which can be used to calculate a safe lift.


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Brian Hughes

Corporate Division Safety Manager, Perdue Farms, Inc.

Ergonomics: Connecting the Human Body and Workplace Environment

Ergonomics: Connecting the Human Body and Workplace Environment

In recent years, the buzz word “ergonomics” has gained some much-deserved attention.  Many have heard the term, yet do not have a full appreciation of its historical importance or significance in today’s workplace.  The concept of ergonomics has Greek origins, with Ergon meaning “work” and Nomos meaning “law”.  It is notable that the principles of ergonomics have been around for centuries, while the emergence of large-scale manufacturing during The Industrial Revolution fueled its foundation.  The term “ergonomics” was initially coined in 1857, recognizing the relationship of the human body to work productivity. 

Preventing Back Injuries in the Workplace

Preventing Back Injuries in the Workplace

Occupational back injuries account for greater than one million injuries each year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Such injuries can result in lost time, reduced productivity, increased demands on other workers, costs for medical treatment and insurance premiums and adverse effects on the quality of life for the person affected. Because of this alarming number of back injuries and the detrimental effects for both the employee and employer, prevention is key, along with awareness of the causes and solutions.