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Solutions to Control Hazards

ergonomics pyramid - Showing Engineering Controls at the top, Administrative and Work Practice Controls in the middle, and Personal Protective Equipment (including respirators) at the base. An arrow is going from bottom to top, along the side of the pyramid, labeled Effectiveness.

Many industries have successfully implemented ergonomic solutions in their facilities as a way to address their workers' MSD injury risks. These interventions have included modifying existing equipment, making changes in work practices and purchasing new tools or other devices to assist in the production process. Making these changes has reduced physical demands, eliminated unnecessary movements, lowered injury rates and their associated workers' compensation costs, and reduced employee turnover. In many cases, work efficiency and productivity have increased as well. Simple, low-cost solutions are often available to solve problems. Use the information on this page to see what has worked for others in your industry or in other industries.

Overview of Controls for MSD Hazards

To reduce the chance of injury, work tasks should be designed to limit exposure to ergonomic risk factors. Engineering controls are the most desirable, where possible. Administrative or work practice controls may be appropriate in some cases where engineering controls cannot be implemented or when different procedures are needed after implementation of the new engineering controls. Personal protection solutions have only limited effectiveness when dealing with ergonomic hazards.

Type of Control Workplace Examples
Engineering Controls (implement physical change to the workplace, which eliminates/reduces the hazard on the job/task)
  • Use a device to lift and reposition heavy objects to limit force exertion
  • Reduce the weight of a load to limit force exertion
  • Reposition a work table to eliminate a long/excessive reach and enable working in neutral postures
  • Use diverging conveyors off a main line so that tasks are less repetitive
  • Install diverters on conveyors to direct materials toward the worker to eliminate excessive leaning or reaching
  • Redesign tools to enable neutral postures
Administrative and Work Practice Controls (establish efficient processes or procedures)
  • Require that heavy loads are only lifted by two people to limit force exertion
  • Establish systems so workers are rotated away from tasks to minimize the duration of continual exertion, repetitive motions, and awkward postures. Design a job rotation system in which employees rotate between jobs that use different muscle groups
  • Staff "floaters" to provide periodic breaks between scheduled breaks
  • Properly use and maintain pneumatic and power tools
Personal Protective Equipment (use protection to reduce exposure to ergonomics-related risk factors)
  • Use padding to reduce direct contact with hard, sharp, or vibrating surfaces
  • Wear good fitting thermal gloves to help with cold conditions while maintaining the ability to grasp items easily
example of an engineering control: mechanical devices that lift and tilt to adjust materials for easier handling

Example of an engineering control: mechanical devices that lift and tilt to adjust materials for easier handling

Source: Solutions for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries in Foundries. OSHA Publication 3465, (2012).

Success Stories
  • Success Stories. OSHA collects brief stories from employers that have implemented ergonomics programs or used best practices with successful results. The success stories are grouped by SIC codes.
  • Case Studies. OSHA collects accounts from employers that have implemented measures, programs or effective practices that have helped reduce the risk of ergonomic injuries or other positive outcomes.
  • Ergonomic Programs that Work. OSHA Video, (1998). Provides information about successful ergonomic programs.
  • Private Sector Ergonomics Programs Yield Positive Results. U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) Report HEHS-97-163. (August 1997). This report to Congress prepared by the Government Accounting Office looks at the efforts and successes of 5 companies who dealt with their ergonomic issues. The companies are: American Express, AMP Incorporated, Navistar, Sisters of Charity Health Systems and Texas Instruments.
Resources
General
  • Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety and Health Topics. Includes a variety of links with information about risk factors and solutions that help protect workers.
Guidelines

These guidelines contain recommendations, best practices and lessons learned. They are designed to help employers and workers recognize and control industry-specific ergonomics-related risk factors.

Industry or Task-Specific Solutions

Agriculture

  • Simple Solutions: Ergonomics for Farm Workers. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2001-111, (February 2001). Describes how to make or order inexpensive new tools or to modify existing ones to reduce the risk of backaches and pains in the arms, shoulders and hands of farm workers. Also available in Spanish.
  • Conference Proceedings: Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders for Children and Adolescents Working in Agriculture. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-119, (June 2004). Provides a summary of a national conference that was held in Cincinnati, Ohio, May 6-7, 2002. The agricultural safety and health experts who attended the meeting discussed research needs regarding prevention of MSDs for children and adolescents working in agriculture.

Apparel and Footwear

  • Ergonomics for Supervisors Volume I: An Introductory Manual for the Apparel and Footwear Industries. OSHA and the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) Alliance Guidelines. Directs supervisors through the process of developing an effective ergonomics program. Volume 2: A Guide to Implementing an Ergonomics Process. Provides an understanding of the key data and steps for developing an effective ergonomics process in the work environment.
  • An Ergonomic Handbook for the Clothing Industry. Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, the Institute for Work & Health, and the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Inc, (2001). Focuses on common ergonomic problems and solutions identified in clothing manufacturing plants to prevent injuries.

Baggage Handling

  • Baggage Handling (Airline industry) eTool. OSHA. Describes many of the common ergonomic hazards associated with the baggage handling process as well as providing possible solutions that are ranked according to their feasibility to the operations.
  • Ergonomic Solutions: Baggage Handling. Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), Division of Workers' Compensation, (October 2005). Provides a PDF version of OSHA's baggage handling e-Tool. Also available in Spanish.

Beverage Delivery

Carpet Laying

Image of a worker at a computer workstation showing: Top of monitor at or just below eye level, Head and neck balanced and in-line with torso, shoulders relaxed, elbows close to body and supported, lower back supported, wrists and hands in-line with forearms, adequate room for keyboard and mouse, and feet flat on the floor.

Ergonomics while working at a computer workstation

Source: OSHA Computer Workstations eTool

Computer Workstation

  • Computer Workstations eTool. OSHA. Illustrates simple, inexpensive principles that will help create a safe and comfortable computer workstation. Discusses basic design goals to consider when setting up a computer workstation or performing computer-related tasks.
  • Working Safely with Video Display Terminals (PDF). OSHA Publication 3092, (Revised 1997). Discusses common ergonomic issues related to use of video display terminals.
  • Easy Ergonomics: Computer Desktop Users. Cal/OSHA, (2005). Provides suggestions for working safely and reducing risks of injury while working at a desktop computer.
  • Workstation Adjustments for Comfort and Safety. Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), Division of Workers' Compensation, (October 2005). Provides recommendations to create a more comfortable, more efficient, healthier and safer workstation environment.

Construction

Food Distribution Centers

Foundries

Furniture Manufacturing

  • Voluntary Ergonomics Guideline for the Furniture Manufacturing Industry. American Furniture Manufacturers Association (AFMA) Publication, (2003). Assists employers and employees in recognizing and controlling potential ergonomic hazards.

Grocery Stores and Warehousing

illustration showing a portable lift device

Use a portable lift device to eliminate patient lifting

Source: Guidelines for Nursing Homes: Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders. OSHA Publication 3182, (2009).

Healthcare

Manufacturing

Meatpacking

  • Ergonomics Program Management Guidelines for Meatpacking Plants. OSHA Publication 3123, (1993). Provides information on the steps employers should take to determine if they have ergonomic-related problems in their workplaces, to identify the nature and location of those problems and to implement measures to reduce or eliminate them.
  • Participatory Ergonomic Interventions in Meatpacking Plants. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 94-124, (1994). Provides in-depth reports of intervention projects to reduce ergonomic hazards at three meat packing plants.

Mining

  • Ergonomics in Mining: Charting a Path to a Safer Workplace. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2006-141, (September 2006). Provides information on ergonomic processes which can be implemented in a setting such as mining where working conditions frequently change and workers are periodically exposed to extreme weather conditions.
Use diverters to direct material toward the worker to eliminate a long/awkward reach

Use diverters to direct material toward the worker to eliminate a long/awkward reach

Source: Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries in Poultry Processing. OSHA Publication 3213, (2004, Revised 2013)

Poultry Processing

Printing

  • Printing Industry eTool. OSHA. Provides information about ergonomics in the printing industry based on the experience of others to help make the process of hazard minimization easier. A description of the printing process and the trouble areas that have currently been identified are detailed for each major style of printing: lithography, flexography and screen printing./li>

Sewing

  • Sewing and Related Procedures eTool. OSHA. Workers involved in sewing activities, such as manufacturing garments, shoes and airplane or car upholstery, may be at risk of developing MSDs. This eTool provides example ergonomics solutions specific to sewing. Also available in Spanish.

Shipyards

before - worker not using a drum mover - after - worker using a drum mover

Use a drum mover to reduce lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy drums

Source: Guidelines for Shipyards: Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders. OSHA Publication 3341, (2008).

Telecommunications

  • Ergonomic Guidelines for Common Job Functions Within the Telecommunications Industry. National Telecommunications Safety Panel, Ergonomics Subcommittee, (November 2007). Provides information pertaining to the science of ergonomics and its impact on the telecommunications industry. It is organized into 4 main sections by work type within the telecommunications industry; outside plant environment, central office environment, office environment and retail environment.

Veterinary

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