Ergonomic Hazards in the Workplace 1

Ergonomic Hazards in the Workplace 1

Ergonomic Hazard in the Workplace

Maryann Dadis

National University

COH 412: Injury Prevention


Ergonomic Hazards in the Workplace 2

Injuries relating to ergonomics is a costly and enormous problem. According to Bureau of

Labor Statistics (2017), ergonomic-related injuries continuous to be a significant cause of time

off in many workplaces. For example, in 2013, BLS estimated that those injuries resulted in

380,600 of days-away-from-work. Employees will be able to perform their jobs more effectively

if they are free from injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. This is the reason why ergonomics

has been one the focuses of the National Safety Council.

During an internship at an independent pharmacy, 2 of the workers were suffering from

musculoskeletal disorders caused by a poorly designed workplace. The pharmacy area was small

but busy, processing about 450 prescriptions per day. To reduce the amount of time spent on

filling prescriptions, commonly prescribed or fast-moving drugs were stocked on shelves under

the ‘customer’s window”. Because of this, retrieving medications required the filling technician

to bend and reach. Additionally, prescriptions were arriving by phone and the intake pharmacist

was spending a lot of time on the phone receiving the prescription request. She suffered from

neck pain due to her neck being in bent position all the time as headphones were not provided.

Furthermore, some computer stations did not support neutral postures for typing. This was

because monitors and keyboards were too low for a standing station, but there was no legroom

for sitting station either.

The ergonomic hazard that was associated with that workplace was the awkward postures

with excessive bending and reaching. Extended reaches are examples of awkward postures that

require the body to deviate from the neutral in the arms, shoulders, and back. Performing tasks in

such positions repeatedly enforce increased stress on the muscles and joints. Injuries occur when

stressed muscles do not have enough time to recover. The injuries that those employees sustained

Ergonomic Hazards in the Workplace 3

were caused by frequent bending, reaching and awkward postures with the computer and

telephone use. The arrangement of the pharmacy and the lack of headphones resulted in twisted

postures and neck strain.

Hierarchy of Control

The hierarchy of controls is a model used by safety professionals to explain and establish

effective and practical approaches for minimizing contact with workplace hazards. There is no

single definitive model, but a rather extensive variety of interpretations of the model (Coble,

2015). The model is wide-ranging, so it can be applied to a broad range of dangers in the


Engineering Control: Ergonomically designed workstations, chairs, and equipment. Integrate

adjustable workstation to accommodate employees of various sizes. Adjustment of workstation

and chair to fit the user. Changes in the physical setup of the workplace and job that eliminate or

reduce exposure to MSD risk factors (NIOSH, 2016). Monitor height should equal to or slightly

below the user’s eye height. A monitor arm can also be used to allow the computer to be

positioned based on the user’s height.

Administrative Control: Education regarding ergonomic hazards and control strategies should

be provided to the employees. Additionally, employers should encourage the use of “right guard”

or the system that prompts workers to take stretching breaks to relieve discomforts. (OSHA,


Personal Protective Equipment- A wrist brace can be worn to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome,

knee splint, and a back brace to help protect the knee and the back from bending. Headphones

can be worn as well to prevent neck strain.

Ergonomic Hazards in the Workplace 4

Since that pharmacy had more than one employee experiencing a work-related injury, the

California ergonomics standard was triggered. According to Society for Human Resource

Management, “if the standard is triggered, then the employer must develop a written program

covering a worksite evaluation, control of the exposures and plans for training employees”

(SHRM, 2017). Any job exposures that resulted in injuries must be corrected, or, if hazards

cannot be corrected, they must be minimized. The employer must implement engineering

controls including redesigning workstations, and administrative controls, such as work breaks.

Moreover, all employers operating in California are responsible for conforming to the state’s

applicable workplace safety and health laws supervised and imposed by the California Division

of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). Employers do not to follow California’s safety

standards can face penalties for noncompliance.

In conclusion, poorly designed workstations result in many preventable injuries and

costly worker’s compensation cases. It is also associated with decreased productivity and

efficiency. Simple interventions and modifications are available to correct those problems. It is

important for employers to execute ergonomic solutions. OSHA (2016), has reported the

effectiveness of engineering and administrative controls. Ergonomic improvements are cost-

effective promoting safer workplaces that generate productive employees. (NIOSH, 2015).

Ergonomic Hazards in the Workplace 5


Coble, D. (2015). Managing Hazards through the Hierarchy of Controls. Safely Made. A

technical publication of ASSE’s Manufacturing Practice Specialty

Society for Human Resource Management/ SHRM. (2017). Complying with California Safety

Standards. Retrieved from

McDiarmid, M. A., Fujikawa, J. (1996). Controlling occupational exposure to ergonomic

injuries. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 53(14).

MSDS Online, 2015. Workplace Ergonomic Injuries. Retrieved from. injuries.

NIOSH (2000). NIOSH Testimony to OSHA: Comments on the Proposed Ergonomics Program.

DHHS (NIOSH) Publication 2001-108.

Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from

OSHA (2016) Safety & Health Management Systems Tool; Hazard Prevention and Control.

Retrieved from