Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the practice of fitting the job to the individual, which can help prevent work-related musculoskeletal injuries. Examples of musculoskeletal injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and low back pain. The goal of the ergonomics program at the University is to help departments and employees identify risk factors that can contribute to the development of work-related musculoskeletal injuries and determine solutions to eliminate or reduce these risk factors.

Risk factors

Risk factors for the development of musculoskeletal injuries include awkward postures, repetitive tasks, and/or forceful exertions. These types of injuries are usually cumulative; they develop over time, rather than resulting from a single event.

Musculoskeletal injuries can be prevented by evaluating work tasks that involve these risk factors and finding solutions to better fit the job to the person. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website covers these risk factors as well as other contributing factors in greater detail, along with advice for how to reduce or limit these risk factors.

Ergonomic hazard evaluation tools

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) provides ergonomic hazard evaluation tools to help you:

  • Identify tasks that pose an injury risk
  • Prioritize your injury prevention efforts
  • Determine if a solution adequately fixed the hazard

Use the L&I Caution Zone Checklist and the L&I Hazard Zone Checklist to identify job tasks that require awkward postures; highly repetitive motion; repeated impact; heavy, frequent or awkward lifting; moderate to high hand-arm vibration; or high hand force that could cause sprains and strains. If hazards are identified, make the job safer by reducing the time spent doing the tasks under the limit listed in the checklist.

Requests for ergonomic evaluations

EH&S provides guidance to employees with ergonomic questions and concerns. EH&S has limited resources and utilizes guidance documents, online office ergonomic assessment tools, and vendor assistance as needed.

If questions pertain to office workstation adjustments and the selection of office furniture or equipment, see these documents:

Employees can request an online office ergonomic self-assessment, which includes questions about areas of discomfort and produces recommended workstation adjustments and training resources to help alleviate the areas of discomfort. 

When an online self-assessment is completed, EH&S will review and determine if an on-site visit is warranted by our ergonomic consultant. 

To request access to the online office ergonomic self-assessment tool, please complete our Office Ergonomics Evaluation Form.

For ergonomic assessment related to non-office work environments, please contact ehsergo@uw.edu and see the Consultants section below. 

Consultants

EH&S does not currently have resources to provide ergonomics assessments for non-office work environments. For these types of assessments, an outside consultant may be a good option for departments to address potential risk factors for the development of musculoskeletal injuries. Consultants will evaluate workstations or work tasks to determine if changes should be made to better fit the employee.

The University of Washington has established contracts with ErgotFit Consulting and Solutions Northwest to receive ergonomics assistance at negotiated rates. Please contact ehsergo@uw.edu for more information on consultant services.

Training and information

The following training courses and resources are available online:

Additional training for supervisors and employees on ergonomics awareness is available from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries on the L&I Ergonomics webpage.

Workers' Compensation

Questions regarding employee work-related injuries or illness claims should be referred to UW Risk Services, Claim Services at claims@uw.edu or visit the Claim Services website.

Disability Services Office

For questions regarding disability or reasonable accommodation assistance, please contact the Disability Services Office at 206.543.6450, 206.543.6452 (TTY), by email at dso@uw.edu, or visit their website.