Overview: Ergonomics is the study of the work environment and the comfort level of workers. Jobs that require repetitive motions, heavy lifting or awkward positions can cause physical problems for the worker. Ergonomics focuses on designing work stations that eliminate many of these problems and helps make safety in the workplace a top priority.
OSHA does not have a standard requiring employers to create ergonomically friendly work areas. It may, however, fine an employer under the catch-all General Duty Standard if it decides that the work design was an obvious hazard to employees' safety and well-being. Some states that have their own occupational safety and health plan do have actual ergonomic regulations that employers must follow.
Even without laws regulating the field, employers should create ergonomic friendly workplaces to avoid occupational injuries. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, are commonly developed in individuals who perform repetitive tasks over long periods of time. Ergonomics can help adjust the work design in a way that avoids these problems.
Trends: Health and fitness in the workplace are becoming important considerations to workers who previously spent eight hours a day sitting. Office workers are utilizing standing stations, treadmill desks and exercise balls as office chairs to increase fitness while working. Employers that allow these working conditions can help these workers remain ergonomically comfortable by offering desks and work stations that are adjustable and fit the new work methods.
Author: Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, JD, Legal Editor
This briefing for supervisors examines the law and best practices regarding ergonomics in the workplace, including creating an ergonomic friendly workplace, training employees on good ergonomics and identifying job hazards.
Employment glossary definition of Ergonomics.