NIOSH Updates Ergonomics Guide to Prevent Work-related MSDs


The NIOSH Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) Research Program recently updated Elements of Ergonomics Programs, a guide intended to help employers, workers, and others design effective ergonomics programs to prevent work-related MSDs.

MSDs are soft-tissue injuries caused by sudden or sustained exposure to repetitive motion, force, vibration, and awkward positions. These disorders can affect the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints and cartilage in your upper and lower limbs, neck and lower back. The NIOSH Musculoskeletal Health Cross-Sector Program works with outside partners in industry, labor, trade associations, professional organizations, and academia to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

MSDs that are made worse or longer lasting by work conditions that require employees to:

  • lift, push, pull, or carry many or irregularly shaped objects
  • maintain awkward/ unnatural postures
  • withstand cold temperatures
  • withstand vibrations from machinery and tools
  • increase the intensity, frequency, and duration of activities

The new version of the document, which was originally published as a PDF in 1997, can be found on NIOSH’s website in HTML format. NIOSH’s updated guide describes practical strategies for identifying and correcting ergonomic deficiencies in a variety of workplace settings. According to the agency, the site allows users to tailor the information to their particular work situations.

The updated guide divides information into six pages or sections, which each represent a step in evaluating and addressing musculoskeletal concerns in the workplace. The six steps include identifying risk factors, involving and training management and workers, collecting health and medical evidence, implementing an ergonomic program, evaluating the program, and maintaining involvement.

Other resources, including references, forms and questionnaires, and outside sources on ergonomic guidelines and standards, are also available on the new Elements of Ergonomic Programs web page.