Industrial Ergonomics in Action: What Every Safety Manager Needs to Know

Learn about modern industrial ergonomics and how safety managers can reduce the risk of work-related injuries.

As National Safety Month rounds out we'd like to take a moment to thank all of the Safety Managers looking out for us every day!

Safety managers are required to work with an extensive network of employees, covering every part of an organization's operations. Adapting the tasks of a job to the natural abilities of the human body, taking into account physical demands, body posture, and ergonomic principles, is just one of their responsibilities. The risk of injury can come from anywhere in the workplace and a comprehensive knowledge of its inner workings is required to identify their sources. But, by understanding some key concepts within the field of modern industrial ergonomics, safety managers can make identifying risks a breeze! 

Understanding Musculoskeletal Disorders

The practice of industrial ergonomics examines and analyzes the efficiency of safety practices within the workplace. When approaching the field of industrial ergonomics an understanding of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) is required. NIOSH describes MSDs as “soft-tissue injuries caused by sudden or sustained exposure to repetitive motion, force, vibration, and awkward positions.” MSDs have a wide-ranging impact with the ability to affect muscles, nerves, and various other systems across your entire body. Putting in steps to avoid work-related musculoskeletal disorders is essential. Consider how often you hear about some of the most common types of MSDs.

1. Back Injury and Pain

The well-being of your back is essential to a majority of the movements you make at work every day. Back pain can cause massive impacts on productivity, worker comfort, and can even increase the likelihood of further injury. According to the CDC two occupational groups accounted for more than 54% of back injury cases: operators, fabricators, and laborers (38%); and precision production, craft, and repair (17%). Recognizing the risk factors present in your workplace can be vital in avoiding musculoskeletal injuries.

2. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Compression of the median nerve as it travels through the wrist's carpal tunnel. It is the most common nerve entrapment neuropathy, accounting for 90% of all neuropathies.” (Sevy J.O., Varacallo M.) With early indicators being pain, numbness, or tingling, many could write off signs of this dangerous issue or mistake it for other potential pains, such as tendonitis. A high-quality ergonomics program focused on workplace safety should always account for the causes and symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

3. Arthritis

Commonly considered a non-work-related condition, arthritis can be exacerbated or even caused by job demands. This can contribute to OSHA recordables if it is found to be a product of the workplace as noted in this OSHA archive document. Occupational safety should be the priority of every employee and that includes understanding what may already be affecting coworkers and discovering ergonomic solutions for those problems.

4. Muscle Tears

As our awareness of the cause behind workplace injuries increases the overall rate and occurrence of workplace injuries has decreased. However, even with a decreasing rate of injury over the past 10 years, sprains, strains, and tears still account for 68% of all reported injuries. Transferring heavy loads improperly, incorrect manual material handling procedures, and other maneuvers can all lead to potential tears. With many muscle injuries taking at least a month to fully heal, this can severely impact productivity.

With the direct costs of MSDs being $20 billion dollars a year and indirect costs accounting for almost five times that number, risk assessment and safety training to account for musculoskeletal injuries is essential for any business.

Risk Factor Worker

Risk Factors for MSDs

When considering ergonomic risk factors, we can identify two major categories. Physical risk factors, based on biomechanics and best practices, and environmental risk factors, revolving around everything from workspace layout to tools used in the workplace. Reducing future healthcare costs for employees, current claims, and increasing comfort and safety in the workplace can all be achieved by identifying and remediating the right risk factors.

Physical Risk Factors

  1. Repetitive motions

  2. Awkward postures

  3. Forceful exertions

  4. Vibrations

Environmental Risk Factors

  1. Poor lighting and visibility

  2. Extreme temperatures

  3. Noise levels

Consider a scenario. In the trucking industry, we can easily identify several of these risk factors that solutions could be developed for. Repetitive motions such as adjusting a wheel or operating loading machinery, awkward postures possible at the wheel, and vibrations from hours on the road are just a few physical risk factors. Environmental risk factors can constantly be changing with the time of day, weather conditions, and even traffic on the road.

Identifying and measuring the risks associated with a worker's daily activities are the first steps in preventing MSD injuries. 

How to Identify Ergonomic Risk Factors in the Workplace

Ergonomic Assessments and Control Measures

The first step in finding the solution to ergonomic issues in any workplace is conducting a workplace analysis. A workplace assessment will identify current and potential hazards, getting you on the road to improving worker safety. Once you have evaluated your work practices, ergonomists can suggest the proper control measures and solutions to implement to reduce risk. Creating and understanding your workplace analysis is just the first step to achieving an incident-free workplace.

Control measures can be everything from engineering controls on specific equipment to standard PPE. Recognizing when items such as basic hand tools or safety belts for lifting heavy items need to be replaced is often overlooked but is an essential control measure. Check out this article from OSHA to learn more!

Looking for a first step along the way to a full workplace assessment? Check out our workplace safety checklist below. Easily identify areas you can improve upon in the workplace to make a healthier and safer environment.

Free Workplace Safety Checklist

I&I your Ergonomic Programs

Implementation and Improvement! These two key steps can be considered the most daunting and overlooked pieces of an ergonomic program. With effective, smooth implementation and monitored improvements, you can make leaps and bounds, safely, to success.


  1. Buy-in from every level of your organization

  2. Training time accounting for employees’ base knowledge, company size, and access to materials.

  3. Information gathering for results requires concentrated effort from all participants.

Knowledge from professional ergonomists is necessary to not only get the most efficient implementation but additionally, vital improvements that will take you a step above your competition.


  1. Process data from across disciplines with an understanding of job tasks.

  2. Translate data into actionable insights to improve productivity.

  3. Continue the process indefinitely, implementing new best practices and other resources as needed.

By neglecting the process of collecting employee feedback and finding improvements you could be unintentionally hampering the effectiveness of your new program. Ergonomic self-assessment tools have been shown to save some companies $1.1 million in the past. Consider utilizing multiple methods of assessment to get the best results!

Discussing Ergonomics

Leave Poor Ergonomics in the Past

Whether you are looking to reduce the rate of musculoskeletal disorders, find better solutions for your industrial ergonomics, or just create a better overall work environment there are a large number of options. Everything from new emerging technologies, expert providers, and thoughtful action can make improvements in your workplace. The intersection of all three will optimize results not only for your employees but also for the company.

Every safety manager is essential in seeing these changes implemented. Day-to-day improvements have to be monitored for efficiency and efficacy. Feedback has to be collected from a wide variety of disciplinary areas. All of that information has to be effectively synthesized to be understood. With knowledge and awareness of the major aspects of any ergonomics plan, a safety manager can greatly increase the quality of occupational health, accomplishing amazing things in the workplace.

If you’d like to learn more about how Briotix Health and our expert providers can help you through every step of this process feel free to click the link below. We aim to make every workplace happier, healthier, and a place people are happy to work. Reach out to one of our ergonomic experts and schedule a talk today. 

Consult with an Industrial Ergonomics Expert


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