Bad Ergonomics: A Health Risk Factor?

A recent article circulated to members of the military stresses the important of ergonomics, which is the study and prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. However, a work space that promotes poor ergonomics is a safety risk, not only in the military, but in civilian work spaces as well.

Poor ergonomic risk factors include non-neutral postures, repetition, force, mechanical compression, duration, vibration, and temperature extremes. Experts say limiting exposure to these hazards reduces the potential for worker fatigue, errors, and unsafe acts while simultaneously increasing effectiveness and efficiency. It is important therefore to fit the workstation to the worker, and not the other way around. Julie Shelley "Command Spotlight - National Safety Month: Ergonomics should be considered while reducing risks in workplace" (Jun. 18, 2020).


The CDC says poor ergonomics contribute to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), such as muscle sprains, strains, and tears, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and hernias. MSDs are associated with high costs to employers in the form of absenteeism, lost productivity, and injury-related health care.

Three age groups (25 to 34, 35 to 44, and 45 to 54) accounted for 79 percent of MSD cases. More males than females were affected, and MSD’s account for more than 70 million physician office visits annually.

Those working remotely from home may benefit from these home office ergonomics tips.

Get off the couch, bed, or easy chair. These promote non-neutral postures, and extended use could result in musculoskeletal discomfort.

Instead, sit in a good, supportive chair or sit on a pillow to act as both a seat cushion and booster for higher work surfaces such as kitchen tables or breakfast bars, which are usually too high for computer work. Rolled towels also may be used for low back support.

Remember the 90/90/90 rule: hips, knees, and elbows should be at 90 degrees, and use a foot support to keep your feet from dangling.

Use full-sized monitors, keyboards, and mice, rather than relying solely on a laptop.

Stand up while on conference calls to get your blood flowing.

Take micro-breaks throughout the workday to stand up, walk around, and change position. Follow the 20-20-20 guideline: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Here are some links to more information about workplace ergonomics:

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