Ergonomic Design

Discussion of ergonomics and ergonomic design to minimize risk factors for the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs). Also includes discussion of OSHA Standard 29 CFR Part 1910 to explain the benefits of prevention of MSDs and CTDs to employers and employees. Prevention of musculoskeletal pain is also relevant to individuals who spend a lot of time social networking, gaming, or blogging.

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the science of fitting jobs to people, including anatomy, physiology, and psychology. 

What is Ergonomic Design? 

Ergonomic design is the application of this body of knowledge to the design of the workplace (i.e., work tasks, equipment, environment) for safe and efficient use by workers. 

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) 

Up to 85 percent of the population will suffer from musculoskeletal pain.  

Ergonomic Design for Prevention of MSDs

Musculoskeletal pain is a leading cause of health-care visits, particularly in primary care, sick absenteeism, and early pensions. . .Thus preventing disability and high-cost cases may result in large economic savings (2).  

Until prevention is granted more resources, programs need to be relatively cheap; and this suggests incorporating them into existing practice routines (2). 

 Ergonomic Risk Factors for MSDs

A host of ergonomic factors have been found to be associated with musculoskeletal pain, such as:

      • lifting, 
      • heavy work, 
      • twisting, 
      • bending, 
      • manual handling, and 
      • repetitive work.

1969 Study by Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory regarding Ergonomic Design

One study done in April 1969 by the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory, Aerospace Medical Division, Air Force Systems Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, States:

“The body posture of sedentary workers, especially in offices, and of school children has long been a concern of orthopedists and physiologists (4).  

“The increasing number of office positions, of seated factory workers, of people sitting in cars and airplanes, even of seated soldiers, has augmented the concern about “unhealthful” sitting postures (4).  

“Complaints about lower back pains are widespread among people who commonly work in the sitting position (4).

“Medical treatment of ailments thought to be connected with the sitting posture, sick leave taken by employees, and reduced work output highlights some of the economic aspects(4)”

OSHA Standard 29 CFR Part 1910 

As a result of this very common pain and suffering, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) created a standard, 29 CFR Part 1910, which was first published on February 8, 2000, to explain the benefits of prevention of musculoskeletal disorders to both employers and employees.

OSHA Recommends Ergonomic Prevention of MSDs

Businesses in industries that report the highest number of injuries must take steps to lower the risks by buying new equipment, repositioning existing equipment, or providing training on how to avoid injury (OSHA). 

OSHA Advises as follows:

  • There should be management leadership and employee participation in your ergonomics program.  
  • Management should identify and assess any hazards.
  • Employees should be trained to identify, prevent and control possible hazards through information and training.  
  • Any ergonomics program you set up should also be evaluated for effectiveness.


  1. CBA Report, Cincinnati Bar Association, March, 2001:  “Is There Light at the End of the Carpal Tunnel?” written by Ann W. DeVoe, Esq.
  2. Textbook of Pain, 1998, “Prevention of Disability due to Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain,” written by Steven James Litton.
  3. Spine, Volume 21, Number 1, pp.71-78, 1996, “Analysis of Lumbar Spine and Hip Motion During Forward Bending in Subjects with and Without a History of Low Back Pain,” written by Marcia A. Esola, M.S., P.T.; Philip W. McClure, M.S., P.T.; G. Kelley Fitzgerald, M.S., P.T.; and Sorin Siegler, Ph.D., U.S.A.
  4. Industrial Medicine, Vol. 38, No. 4, April, 1969, Orthopedics, “Ergonomics in the Design of Office Furniture,” written by K. H. Eberhard Kroemer, Dr. Ing.; Joan C. Robinette, Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory, Aerospace Medical Division, Wright-Paterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
  5. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) with Amendments.

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