Posted: December 2nd, 2013






Ergonomics can be defined as the methodical discipline that deals with the comprehending of the interactions between humans and other factors of a system, and the line of work that uses theoretical values and techniques to develop in order to maximize human welfare and the complete system. The professionals in this industry strive to study and come up with innovative ways of analyzing work, the methods of working and the best ways to improve work and other aspects of work. Ergonomics addresses the interactions that happen between human beings in various environments and the office environment offers some of the most difficult situations that qualify for ergonomic attention.

Three main areas of human interaction exist that are captured within the scope of ergonomics. Physical ergonomics deals with human biomechanical, physiological, anatomical and anthropometric features as they relate to physical action. Some of the relevant aspects of physical ergonomics include different postures in the workplace, handling of materials, monotonous movements, and musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace as well as workplace layout, health and safety. Cognitive ergonomics is concerned with the mental development among employees and individuals and deals with aspects such as reasoning, motor response, memory and other emotions that affect interactions among humans. Lastly, organizational ergonomics is a branch that deals with the maximization of socio-technical systems by developing and streamlining their organizational processes, policies and structures. These aspects of ergonomics are the main ones, but other minor subsection of ergonomics that have developed from these major elements. However, all these aspects of ergonomics stress on providing comfort especially in the human-machine interfaces. Physical comfort is one of the issues that affect most people in the workplace.

Musculoskeletal disorders

            Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) refer to a wide term that refers to a diversity of disorders that affect the soft tissues and joints such that the people affected by MSD have difficulty in using their joints effectively. Musculoskeletal disorders affect the tendons, muscles, joints and ligaments. Although musculoskeletal disorders have direct strain on the aforementioned areas, there are other effects such as joint injuries, low back pain, injuries of various sorts and repetitive strain. Some of the common symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders include fatigue, pain and sleep deprivation. The most common MSDs are backache, muscular pains in the legs and arms and tiring positions.

Causes of musculoskeletal disorders

            The causes of musculoskeletal disorders are mostly due to a lack of proper information on the appropriate postures and methods of handling their physical activities. Work-related MSDs emerge from poor ergonomic design of workplaces and workstations. Most workplaces are designed with efficiency in mind. The planners of most offices try to maximize space, and in doing so, they put the physical conditions of the users at risk. Although that is part of the cause, human beings also adopt poor habits that combine with exploitative environment to make the symptoms of MSD more prevalent. Examples of such habits include writing on the blackboard above shoulder height, typing in poor postures, poor organization of work and the perception by workers, manual handling and direct manual pressure on body tissues. Poor planning of office rooms for instance expose workers to upper limb disorders.

Another major cause of MSD is the manual handling and movement of most heavy loads by hand or the use of the rest of the body. Most of the jobs that expose individuals to these conditions are in the construction industry. The workers in these strenuous jobs engage in monotonous jobs that involve stooping, gripping, stretching, reaching, kneeling or lifting are exposed to the highest risk of suffering from a work-related musculoskeletal disorder. The common disorders that such jobs create include tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and other back problems. Handling heavy equipment or machinery for long periods also put workers at risk of Work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs).

Other causes of MSDs that are not work-related include accidents. When individuals experience accidents on their joints and bones, they will probably experience MSDs such as backaches. Falls, dislocations, fractures and sprains are also possible accidents that may prove risky for the victims. Strenuous sports can also expose athletes and other sportsmen to MSDs in the process of playing their games that include wrestling or karate. Such activities may expose participants to direct soft tissue impacts that will trigger complications in the musculoskeletal complications. Poor physical exercise among lazy people who are mostly immobilized also experience slight pain and discomfort. All these three causes of musculoskeletal disorders have the fundamental similarity in that they are caused by repetition, posture and force.

Ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders within the work place

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) are portrayed by soreness, injury, disability, or constant pain in the tendons, muscles, joints or other tender tissues. These WMSDs are the most common reported work-related illnesses in many offices. The high incidence rates for work-related musculoskeletal disorders have been reported among employees in a wide range of occupations including agriculture office work and manufacturing. Within the office, work-related musculoskeletal disorders can result in heavy costs, such as payment for damages and medical expenses, as well as oblique costs such as an interruption in output and quality, absence costs, worker replacement costs and training.

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders have become a significant concern because of the severe health implications and the productivity of employees and acts as a significant problem for both employers and workers. Many of the employees spend a considerable amount of time on their computers workstations either at work, in school or at home (Norashikin et al, 2011). Having good ergonomics at the workplace is, therefore, critical to maintaining good health and productivity. Learning how to use the office equipment and furniture properly is, therefore, pivotal in tackling the ergonomics issue in the workplace.

Solutions to the ergonomic issues in the office

The provision of ergonomic education or ergonomics awareness education as a solution toward improving the physical conditions and the productivity of the employees offers the best possibilities for individuals working in different environments. Ergonomic education serves to provide workers with vital information that briefs them about the dangers of certain habits and even the reasons for their reduced productivity. An even more influential role of ergonomic education is that it offers solutions and recommendations that serve to make the work experience more comfortable and enjoyable.

The programs in ergonomic education vary depending on the budget allocated by the organization, the amount of time awarded for the training and the level of ergonomic problems in the organization. The initial stages in the ergonomics training involve classifying, and working to determine risk factors that may create work-related musculoskeletal disorders. The course trains the employees through a proactive and reactive ergonomics cycle. The other topics in the introductory course include risk identification, proposal of solutions and implementing solutions.

The next program involves computer users in the workplace and offers a general recommendation for computer users. This part of the course is presented in an electronic format that points out the definition of MSD, how to set up computer workstations and good work practices. This part is essentially vital as workers experience many problems that are related to how they set up their computer workstations, how they use their equipment and how they eliminate substandard work practices. The workers can also be given handouts that help them in that they could apply the instructions at their own workstations. These two courses are fundamental to improving the workers’ conditions. There is a similar course to the computer users called ergonomics for skilled trades that offer information on the ideal working heights, working in different environments and manual material handling.

The other significant part of the course is the MSD Prevention Webinar. This is a web-based seminar that was interactive and allowed workers to keep copies of the presentation for future references. The MSD Prevention electronic seminar contained statistics of the injury incidents that occur due to ergonomic oversights. These statistics covered most states in America. The seminar also instructs the workers on how to use the elements in the MSD policies to develop a working MSD prevention program. The course also offered the proper use of risk assessment tools. This course is technical and should be issued to specific employees that are directly responsible for the workers’ welfare such as that of the human resource managers.

Reducing the repetition of work description

            The work description of different employees forces some of the workers to endure difficult situations and environments. Most of these jobs are repetitive in nature. Physical jobs that are repetitive in nature offer the largest amount of stress as they involve the same muscle groups and joints repeatedly when they do the same motions regularly, quickly and for long periods. An appropriate example would be a man working in a bottle packing plant, whose whole day passes with him reaching for the bottles, grasping the bottles, passing the bottles in the box and placing the bottles in box. This means that the worker can pack anything from 200 to 300 bottles on average every day.

These jobs are considered as either high repetitive or low repetitive depending on the extent of repetition. Work that involves repeated movement can be extremely tiring because the member of staff cannot fully recover their strength, and may lack concentration in the short periods between the movements. Ultimately, it takes more effort to execute the same repetitive activities. When the work continues in spite of the stress and reducing effort, injuries are bound to occur. The body position and holding the neck and shoulders are the two body positions that are most affected by the MSDs.

Solving the musculoskeletal disorders caused by repetitive jobs involves adopting several positive habits. The worker can arrange his or her work before the job starts to avoid the unnecessary motions. It has been proved that workers who organize their jobs beforehand enjoy less mobility, and can, therefore, have a more comfortable working experience. Employees can also liaise with their employers in order to introduce automated ways of working. The company can install machinery and other automatic tools to perform some of the more repetitive tasks. Companies such as car assembly lines can save millions of dollars in health and insurance expenses. Workers can then save themselves the fatigue and MSDs that come up because of repetitive acts.

Companies can also reschedule their programs and timetables to place spread repetitive jobs throughout the day. In doing so, employees can have less strenuous jobs and still achieve all the demands of the company. Workers can also beat the MSDs by taking breaks where they can stretch their joints and avoid the stress. Employers can also organize for programs where employees can change or rotate tasks with workers from other departments. Lastly, the employee can change the style and motions of working so that they do not stress one aspect of their body. These approaches will serve to reduce the MSDs caused by repetitive work.

Computer use recommendations

Intensive keying and mousing among employees among employees can cause discomfort, backache and other MSDs. These effects can be reduced by adopting several appropriate habits. One, the workers can spread out the keyboard and mouse work for a longer period and minimize the effect of working on then computer. The workers can also automate some of the common function by using macros that will lessen the use of these peripheral devices. Lastly, the employee can change the style and motions of working so that they do not stress one aspect of their body. These approaches will serve to reduce the MSDs caused by repetitive work. Some solutions can also include replacing the conventional keyboards with keys made of foam or spacers. These new installations will allow for easier activation of keys without much movement from the comfortable neutral position. This form of correction is especially easy to implement in the situation where the budget is constrained and it cannot allow for the purchase of ergonomic chairs. In this case, the modification of the keyboards will serve to help frequent users. On the surface, these solutions may look unattractive and childish but they work extremely well in reducing pain. They also let constant computer users recover from the stress. After realizing the advantage that it offers, they cease to become a laughing item and instead serve to help the health of the users.

Remodeling, restructuring and reorganization of the office layout

            Poor office layouts cause severe neck and back damage from excessive twisting and rotating. These problems are mostly realized in L-shaped office layouts that force workers to turn about 90 degrees to reach out for equipment of materials. The company should invest in interior designers that can choose proper layouts that are comfortable and allow for easy access. The office furniture is another main cause of MSDs. Most office furniture is made up of improper tables and chairs that can be classified as ergonomically incorrect. Such furniture should be done away with and ergonomically safe seats and desks introduced which offer comfort and support to the principal muscles and bones within the body.

Ergonomics affects the expenses and savings that a company will realize in a highly complex way. The measurement of cost savings that the company will realize through the installation of ergonomic measures is done using the analysis of the savings made in the following areas. The productivity improvement and specific performance of each employee are measured separately, and this shows the amount of profit that each employee has contributed toward increasing their amount of work. Most companies will record an increase in the profit margin over the period that ergonomic policies were introduced.

The quality control of tasks also increases because the introduction of ergonomic guidelines serves to increase comfort, decrease strain and ultimately, increases concentration and energy of the workers. The productivity of the overall department can also be measured to determine if the changes in the comfort had an impact on the employees. This is calculated by aggregating the specific productivity improvement of the employees. The decrease in the backlog is a direct indication that ergonomic policies work exceptionally well. The company can analyze the medical records to determine the effectiveness of the ergonomics installations. If the medical costs decrease, it is a sign that the policies worked effectively. The elimination of ergonomic-related lawsuits against a company is another sign that the ergonomic policies reduced the prevalence of MSDs.

The cost of hiring ergonomics professionals and procuring new improved furniture is little compared to the consequences of having uncomfortable, discontented and unhealthy workers. In the case of Ace Distribution Services, the company would require the minimal services of consultants and a cheap purchase cost to solve the problems of many troublesome departmental complaints and the division could return to normal performance. Some problems in the company, including the graphic design division, lower the productivity of Ace Distribution Services. Employees in this department have been working with computer mice every day for the last 5 years. The result has been upper torso problems for the graphic department as they have a poor position when they use the mice to design their projects. Most of them were diagnosed with severe shoulder rotation-cuff complications. In this case, the administration should respond by purchasing advanced tracker balls that will make their work easier and more comfortable.


            Any company that wants to increase their profit margins, reduce employee expenses, and lower health complaints within the workplace needs to adopt beneficial ergonomic guidelines. This involves prioritizing their ergonomic problems in order to keep a control on the costs while they adopt a safer and more productive system. The consultants can identify the worst cases of MSD among the employees that can be sorted immediately. The identification of the rest of the workforce that may need ergonomic attention can be taken at a much slower pace, as they require a preventive approach such as training. The company can establish and implement an ergonomic program that will include an ergonomics board, consisting of a collection of employees given the responsibility of observing the workplaces and tackle the current and probable problems. The committee should have access to qualified agronomists for specialized help in difficult situations.


Norashikin, M., Dianna, T.K., Raemy, M., & Siti, N. H. (2011). Ergonomic Training Reduces Musculoskeletal Disorders among Office Workers: Results from the 6-Month Follow-Up. Retrieved from


Expert paper writers are just a few clicks away

Place an order in 3 easy steps. Takes less than 5 mins.

Calculate the price of your order

You will get a personal manager and a discount.
We'll send you the first draft for approval by at
Total price:
Verified by MonsterInsights