Environmental, Health and Safety Services

Workplace Ergonomic Applications

Definition of Ergonomics

Ergonomics is concerned with "the problem and processes involved in designing things for effective human use, and creating environments that are suitable for human living and work. It recognizes that work methods, equipment, facilities, and tool design all influence the worker's motivation, fatigue, likelihood of sustaining an occupational injury or illness, and productivity." (Occupational Ergonomics Handbook, 1999, p. 1594)

Applying ergonomic solutions to workplaces at Virginia Tech will:

    1. reduce occupational injury and illness
    2. reduce workers' compensation and sickness and accident costs
    3. reduce medical visits
    4. reduce absenteeism
    5. improve productivity
    6. improve quality and reduce scrap
    7. improve worker comfort on the job

 

Areas

Workplace Ergonomics solutions benefit employees engaged in a wide variety of pursuits. At Virginia Tech, these applications are arranged into three functional areas:

  • Office
  • Trades
  • Laboratory

Each functional area shares the common goal of systematically identifying ergonomic risks (such as musculoskeletal) and prioritizing solutions to reduce employee risk exposures. However, there are some differences in the approaches which are described below.

Office

Given the near universal use of computer systems, most Virginia Tech employees are exposed to office ergonomic risk factors for the upper extremities as well as visually intensive tasks.

Trades

This area is more likely to expose employees to more acute injury risks from material handling activities to the upper extremities and back.

Laboratory

Virginia Tech employees working in one of the more than 1000 laboratories generally have computer-related risk exposures to the upper extremities in addition to repetitive use of specialized equipment, standing, and animal handling.

ERGO Systems Model

The ERGO systems model communicates and enhances understanding of the Workplace Ergonomics Program at Virginia Tech.

The ERGO model has four elements:

  Express - tell others about perceived ergonomic risks and health effects
  Review - carefully look at tasks to discover the type and degree of ergonomic risks
  Guide - provide solutions (training, equipment, etc.) to reduce ergonomic risks
  Open - be willing to implement and use new equipment and methods