Ergonomics 102

This class provides an overview of the science of ergonomics and its application in the workplace. Ergonomic hazards are a common safety risk that may be present in any work environment. Not all ergonomic risks are apparent, and many can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Vibration, poor posture or positioning, and repetitive motion are common ergonomic hazards. Back injuries are the most common workplace injuries, and the majority of work-related back injuries are caused by unsafe lifting techniques. Even computer tasks can cause MSDs over time. Ergonomic solutions should be tailored to the individual employee performing the job or task.

Ergonomic programs are an effective way for any employer to increase employee safety, decrease injury and illness, reduce sick time, boost employee morale, and reduce turnover rates. Implementing proper ergonomics in the workplace increases productivity and reduces the cost of sick leave, hiring, and new employee training.

  • Difficulty Beginner

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 17

  • Language English


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Course Outline
  • Introduction to Ergonomics
  • The Importance of Ergonomics
  • Ergonomic Risk Categories
  • Levels of Ergonomic Risk
  • Musculoskeletal Disorders
  • Treating Musculoskeletal Disorders
  • Ergonomic Basics Review
  • Vibration Risks
  • Posture and Alignment
  • Back Injury
  • Repetitive Motion Injury
  • Ergonomic Risks and MSDs Review
  • Ergonomics for Computer Workstations
  • Detecting Ergonomic Hazards
  • Implementation and Solutions
  • Automation and Ergonomics
  • Final Review
  • Explain the importance of ergonomics.
  • Explain the importance of ergonomics.
  • Identify types of ergonomic risks in the workplace.
  • Distinguish between the various factors that determine hazard risk levels.
  • Describe musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Describe treatments for musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Describe how to avoid the risks posed by vibration.
  • Explain the importance of maintaining good posture.
  • Explain the strategies for avoiding back injury in the workplace.
  • Explain how repetitive motion injuries occur.
  • Describe proper ergonomics for computer workstations.
  • Describe the methods of detecting ergonomic hazards.
  • List ways that employers can reduce the risk of MSDs in the workplace.
  • Describe how automation can benefit ergonomics.
Vocabulary Term


A sudden appearance of or change to a negative effect of ergonomic hazards. A sprain is an acute condition.


Inflammation of one or more joints. Arthritis often occurs in the fingers and hands.

automated forklifts

A vehicle that uses a forked platform to lift and carry loads without a driver or operator. Automated forklifts increase efficiency and reduce injuries related to lifting heavy loads or driving traditional forklifts.

automated storage and removal systems

AS/RS. Automated equipment used to insert and extract materials from a storage system. Automated storage and removal systems can prevent injuries that might be caused when a human is handling loads.

carpal tunnel syndrome

A musculoskeletal disorder that develops due to compression of the median nerve between the arm and hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is painful and can eventually lead to reduced hand function.


A device that immobilizes and protects a damaged limb by surrounding it. Casts allow broken bones to heal properly.


A condition that develops or becomes worse gradually over time. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a chronic condition.


Collaborative robot. A robot that can be programmed to learn a specific task in order to assist humans. A cobot is designed to interact with humans in a shared workspace.


A medical device used to apply heat or cold to a part of the body. Compresses are used to reduce swelling and inflammation.


A device such as a belt or set of rollers that is used to move items from one location to another. Conveyors may be automated to deliver parts or product to the proper place when needed.


The length of time an individual is exposed to a hazard, such as a chemical gas, a loud noise, or an uncomfortable position. Duration can determine the risk level of the hazard exposure.


The scientific study of equipment design, workspace arrangement, and workplace environment to increase worker comfort, safety, and productivity. Ergonomics can be applied to any workplace.

eye strain

Fatigue of the eyes caused by prolonged or intense use. Eye strain is often caused by working at a computer.


A device that holds objects together or locates them in relation to one another. Common fasteners include bolts, screws, and rivets.


A small powered industrial vehicle that has two prongs on the front for lifting material. Forklifts are used to transport heavy loads.

hand-held grinder

A hand-held tool that uses an abrasive to remove material from a workpiece surface. Hand-held grinders cause vibration to the tissues of the hand.

herniated disks

A rupture in one or more disks that act as a cushion between the bones of the spine. Herniated disks can cause pain and nerve irritation.


The severity of a hazard. Intensity can refer to many aspects of a hazard, such as the weight of loads, degree of rotation in certain tasks, or amount of force that must be applied to accomplish a task, amongst other measurements.


The amount of time between an individual's first exposure to a hazard and the first appearance of injury or illness. Latency can determine the risk level of a hazard.

median nerve

A major nerve that runs along the arm and into the hand. The median nerve can become damaged by repetitive motion, causing carpal tunnel syndrome, amongst other problems.


The component of a computer that includes the screen. Monitors visually display digital information.


A small, rolling, hand-held device with one or more buttons that is used to control a computer cursor. A mouse is used to select and move certain areas or items on a computer screen.


Musculoskeletal disorder. A type of injury affecting the muscles, joints, bones, and related body parts. MSDs can cause pain, numbness, and permanent damage to parts of the body.


Pertaining to muscles, joints, bones, and related body parts. The musculoskeletal system is greatly affected by ergonomics.

musculoskeletal disorders

MSD. A type of injury affecting the muscles, joints, bones, and related body parts. Musculoskeletal disorders can cause pain, numbness, and permanent damage to parts of the body.

National Institutes of Health

NIH. A federal medical research agency that is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The National Institutes of Health conducts and funds medical research.

nerve injuries

Damage to the nerves caused by repetitive motion. Nerve injuries can be prevented by ergonomically designed workspaces and by taking breaks from repetitive motions.

neutral position

The proper or correct position of a bone or joint at rest. Keeping the spine and wrists in a neutral position can prevent pain and injury.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

OSHA. A government agency under the U.S. Dept. of Labor that sets the standards for working conditions in the United States. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration ensures that employees work in safe and healthy environments.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration. A government agency that sets the standards for working conditions in the United States. OSHA ensures that employees work in safe and healthy environments.


The holding of a tool or workpiece with too tight of a grip. Over-gripping can cause injury to the hand or arm.

pallet jack

A small hand-propelled vehicle that uses two prongs to lift and transport pallets of items. Pallet jacks may also be referred to as hand trucks.


A machine that stacks loads onto pallets without an operator. Palletizers prevent injury by performing a task that could cause a musculoskeletal injury in a human.

Permissible Exposure Limit

PEL. Legal limits set by OSHA to protect employees from hazardous substance exposure. Permissible Exposure Limits are based on a time-weighted average for an eight-hour shift.

physical alignment

The way that a person's skull, spine, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles line up and function with one another. Body alignment can prevent or cause injury to the bones, joints, nerves, and blood vessels.

poor positioning

Improper positioning of the body due to the arrangement of a workstation or work area. Poor positioning can lead to pain and injury.


The arrangement of a workstation in relation to how the operator must move to complete work. Positioning should allow employees to stand or sit with correct posture.


The body's position while sitting or standing. Correct posture can prevent many ergonomic injuries.

press brake

A type of stamping machine with an open frame and wide, narrow bed. Press brakes are often used for bending operations, and they are typically manually operated.


The amount of actual work done or products made as compared to the hours spent doing the work. Productivity can be increased through proper ergonomics.

pulled muscles

A strain on a muscle caused by overstretching. Pulled muscles often heal themselves during rest, though severe injuries may require surgery.

rate of exposure

The combination of the intensity and the duration of exposure to a hazard. High rates of exposure will cause injury or illness more quickly than mild rates of exposure.

repetitive motion

Persistent and continual movement that can cause localized musculoskeletal disorders. Assembly line workers often perform tasks that require repetitive motion.

repetitive motion injury

A localized musculoskeletal disorder or injury caused by performing persistent, continual movement. Repetitive motion injuries most commonly occur in the joints of the arms.


A machine that automatically performs complicated and repetitive tasks. Robots often perform work that is too dangerous or strenuous for humans.

sound-level meters

A measuring instrument used to determine loudness. Sound-level meters can be used in place of noise dosimeters when dosimeters are unavailable or inappropriate.

spinal stenosis

A narrowing of the open spaces within the spine that is caused by wear and tear or injuries. Spinal stenosis can be caused by prolonged poor posture.


A device that immobilizes and reinforces a damaged limb by sitting parallel against it. Splints allow broken bones to heal properly.


A severe stretching, twisting, or tearing of one or more ligaments. Sprains injure the ligaments that connect bones to one another.

standing desks

A computer workstation that allows the user to stand while using it. Standing desks reduce strain form poor sitting positions.

suction device

A handled tool that uses vacuum power to lift an object. Suction devices attach as a temporary handle to a heavy or difficult to lift item.

team lifted

Picked up and moved by multiple people. Heavy objects should be team lifted to distribute weight amongst multiple people.


Inflammation of any one of the tendons which attach muscles to bones. Tendonitis is generally a repetitive motion injury.


A connective fiber that attaches muscle to bone. Tendons can become inflamed by repetitive motion.


A rapid, steadily repeating movement. Vibration is a physical hazard.


A specific area designated for an employee to perform a specific task or work duty. A workstation may be assigned to one employee, or employees may rotate through workstations.