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Solutions to Control Hazards

ergonomics pyramid

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. Where possible, engineering controls are the most desirable. 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: OSHA Foundry Guidelines, 2012 (PDF*)

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 (PDF). GAO Report. (1997, August). 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: The Study of Work (PDF*). OSHA Publication 3125. (2000). A booklet that educates employers and workers about ergonomics and provides simple solutions to address ergonomic hazards.
  • Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety and Health Topic. Includes a variety of links that deal with 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 [En Español]. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2001-111. (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.
  • Conference Proceedings: Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders for Children and Adolescents Working in Agriculture.US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-119. (2004, June). 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

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 (PDF). Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), Division of Workers' Compensation. (2005, October). Provides a PDF version of OSHA's baggage handling e-Tool (available in English and en Español).

Beverage Delivery

  • Beverage Delivery eTool. OSHA. Describes ergonomic hazards and possible solutions for workers in the beverage delivery Industry.
  • Ergonomic Interventions for the Soft Drink Beverage Delivery Industry. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Publication No. 96-109. (1996). Presents the results of an ergonomic study to investigate, identify and reduce risk factors that may cause MSDs and injury in the soft drink beverage delivery industry.
  • Beverage Distribution Letter from OSHA, August 18, 2011

Carpet Laying

worker at a computer workstation

Ergonomics while working at a computer workstation

Source: OSHA Computer Workstation 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. (1997). Discusses common ergonomic issues related to use of video display terminals.
  • Easy Ergonomics: Computer Desktop Users (PDF). Cal/OSHA. (2005). Provides suggestions for working safely and reducing risks of injury while working at a desktop computer.
  • Video Display Terminal Guidelines (PDF). New Jersey State Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS). (1992). Helps managers provide VDT operators with well-designed workstations and appropriate training.
  • Workstation Adjustments for Comfort and Safety (PDF). Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), Division of Workers' Compensation. (2005, October). Provides recommendations to create a more comfortable, more efficient, healthier and safer workstation environment.

Construction

  • Ergonomics: Solutions for Electrical Contractors eTool. OSHA. Describes common hazards that electrical contractors may encounter and possible solutions for these hazards.
  • worker tying rebar standing up instead of stooping over

    Tie rebar standing up instead of stooping over

    Source: Alliance Program Construction Roundtable, 2010 (PDF)

  • Prevention Videos (v-Tools): Construction Hazards. OSHA. The following videos show worksite sprains and strains in construction and corrective actions.
  • Simple Solutions: Ergonomics for Construction Workers. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Publication No. 2007-122. (2007). Provides practical ideas to help reduce the risk of repetitive stress injury in common construction tasks.
  • Human Factors Toolbox Talks. Developed through the OSHA and American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) Alliance.
    • Back Injuries in Construction (2010, March)
    • Healthy Backs in the Mechanical Trades (2010, March)
    • Lifts & Loads: Lifting by 2 Persons (2010, March)
    • Material Handling on Construction Sites (2010, March)
    • Mini Breaks During the Day (2010, March)
    • Minimizing Musculoskeletal Fatigue (2010, March)
  • Good Ergonomics for Welders. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. (2012, January 18). Guidance provided by the Canadian government concerning ergonomics for welders.
  • Prevention of Strains, Sprains and Material Handling Injuries in Construction [PPSX* and PDF*]. Alliance Program Construction Roundtable. (2010, July). Participants developed a slide presentation on the prevention of strains, sprains and material handling injuries in construction.
  • Strains, Sprains and Material Handling Safety Tips for Employers and Workers (PDF*). Alliance Program Construction Roundtable. (2011, February). Participants developed safety tips sheets for employers and workers focusing on the reduction of strains and sprains in the construction industry.
  • Sprains and Strains Prevention Toolbox Safety Talk (PDF*). Alliance Program Construction Roundtable. (2010, July). Participants developed a toolbox talk on the prevention of sprains and strains in construction.
  • Ergonomics and Construction - The Smart Move. Laborers Health and Safety Fund. Provides general information about ergonomics and construction with tabs to additional information.

Food Distribution Centers

Foundries

Furniture Manufacturing

Grocery Stores and Warehousing

illustration showing a portable lift device

Use a portable lift device to eliminate patient lifting

Source: OSHA Nursing Home Guidelines, 2009 (PDF*)

Healthcare

Manufacturing

Meatpacking

  • Ergonomics Program Management Guidelines for Meatpacking Plants. OSHA. (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. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health 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. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Publication No. 2006-141. (2006, September). 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.
illustration showing a work using diverters

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

Source: OSHA Poultry Processing Guidelines, 2004 (Updated Guidelines, 2013 (PDF*))

Poultry Processing

Printing

  • Printing (Commercial) eTool. OSHA. Provides information 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 styles of printing: lithography, flexography and screen printing.

Sewing

  • Sewing eTool [en Español]. 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.

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: OSHA Shipyard Guidelines, 2008 (PDF*)

Telecommunications

  • Ergonomic Guidelines for Common Job Functions Within the Telecommunications Industry (PDF). National Telecommunications Safety Panel. (2006, February). 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


*Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 639-2300 for assistance accessing PDF materials.

All other documents, that are not PDF materials or formatted for the web, are available as Microsoft Office® formats and videos and are noted accordingly. If additional assistance is needed with reading, reviewing or accessing these documents or any figures and illustrations, please also contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 639-2300.

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