Ergonomic Standards

Ergonomics: The Human Body and Injury Prevention

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Ergonomics professionals work closely with industry and community leaders to ensure that employers adhere to guidelines and regulations that protect workers and improve safety in the workplace. While trade organizations often establish their own standardized industry practices to decrease work-related injury and illness, there are also several federal and international organizations that have developed guidelines and regulations to ensure safety in the workplace. These include:
Inspector with a clipboard, wearing a hardhatThere are several federal and international organizations that have developed guidelines and regulations to ensure safety in the workplace. Photo Source:

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
  • American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

Body Mechanics and Injury Prevention
One of the most important ways to reduce the risks of work-related injuries is to improve body mechanics. Body mechanics refers to how the body is used. Good body mechanics is using the body in efficient and careful ways and includes good posture, balance, and using the largest muscles to do the heaviest work.

Principles of ergonomics and body mechanics have been used to develop guidelines to help lower the risk of workplace injuries. While there are numerous types of injuries that can happen on the job, two of the most common workplace complaints are eye strain and back pain. The following are some guidelines on how good ergonomics and body mechanics can reduce the risk of these problems.

Eye Strain
Office and computer workers often complain of eye strain, headaches, and blurred vision. These can all be related to how their "tools," such as the computer screen, keyboard, mouse, phone, etc. are organized. Other similar problems suffered by office workers include:

  • Double vision
  • Burning and dry eyes
  • Eye fatigue
  • Light sensitivity
  • After images

Eye Strain Prevention

  • Make sure the lighting is as even as possible in the office, no glaring or flickering lights.
  • Reduce glare—use an anti-glare filter or an LCD display.
  • Use a high quality computer monitor—text characters should look sharp and clear.
  • Set up the monitor to reduce eye strain (it should be place directly in front of you, just below your straight-ahead gaze).
  • Take an eye break every 15 minutes to give your eyes a chance to relax and reduce strain. If your eyes feel dry, blink rapidly for a few seconds to clear away and dust and refresh your eyes.

Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain
Whether you are an office worker, factory worker, teacher, gardener, or student, back pain can be caused by how you do your work.

Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain Prevention

Keeping Healthy at Work
As you can see, ergonomics plays an important role in keeping workers safe and healthy. Whether you work inside or outside the home, it's important to keep the ergonomic principles in mind to minimize pain, injury, and illness.

  • Take frequent breaks and change positions every 20-30 minutes.
  • Warm up or stretch before starting activities that include repetitive movements or prolonged positions.
  • Avoid twisting or bending movements.
  • Position equipment directly in front of you.
  • Avoid over-stretching or over-reaching, keep feet flat on the floor.
  • Avoid bending the neck forward for prolonged periods of time.
  • When lifting heavy objects, bend from your hips and not your waist.

Commentary by Mark R. McLaughlin, MD

This article is an excellent resource for health care professionals and for the lay public outlining the field of ergonomics and how it affects the workplace. As Ms. Rodts describes in excellent detail, it is important for us to take a good hard look at our work environment for ourselves and for our employee's sake. A smart approach incorporating ergonomics in the work place will benefit worker's health and decrease absenteeism and work related injuries. It's not just the right thing to do, it also good business for an employer.

Updated on: 01/26/19
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Ergonomics: The Human Body and Injury Prevention
Mark R. McLaughlin, MD
Princeton Brain and Spine
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Ergonomics: The Human Body and Injury Prevention

Ergonomics is concerned with how our environment interacts with our work. It also looks for ways to decrease the risks of injury and illness.
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