Top Ergonomics Issues in the Workplace

By Brian Carmody
Last updated: February 18, 2022
Key Takeaways

While there are many issues facing ergonomics experts, some are more pressing than others.

Ergonomics is concerned with the lived environment and the ways we interact with it. In workplace settings, it's all about making sure the job fits the worker, rather than forcing the worker to fit the job.


This isn't simply about comfort – although making sure that workers can work without discomfort is a serious matter as well. Failure to correct ergonomic issues can result in musculoskeletal injuries that can, in turn, lead to severe disabilities. For employers, this means financial losses in the form of compensation claims and lost workdays. For employees, it can mean pain, difficulty performing tasks, and a reduced quality of life.

Periodically reviewing workstations and the tasks performed at them can help you identify problems, analyze underlying issues, and generate solutions. Reviewing your company’s OSHA 300 logs, 301 reports, workers’ compensation records, and incident reports can also indicate which ergonomic injuries are most prevalent.


To help you get started, let's take a look at some of the most common ergonomic problems found in the workplace.

Lower Back Pain and Back Injuries

Lower back pain is one of the most frequently reported ergonomic issues. It often results from everyday work activities, such as sitting in a poorly designed chair or lifting heavy objects without using a safe lifting technique.

The risk of back pain or injury can be reduced in a variety of ways, including:

  • Improving the design of workspaces. For example, providing adjustable chairs to encourage better posture or stocking heavy items on middle shelves to eliminate the need to bend when picking them up.
  • Adjusting work schedules and workloads. Smart scheduling can reduce the likelihood that a worker has to perform too many back-intensive tasks in a row and instead spreads these out throughout a shift or over the course of a week.
  • Employee exercise and stretching programs. Stretching before doing physical work, getting in better shape, and building more muscle all make the body more resilient and reduce the likelihood of a back injury.
  • Institute frequent desk breaks. Sitting for prolonged periods of time not only causes back pain but is also one of the main contributing factors for musculoskeletal disorders. Employees who do much of their work sitting down should be encouraged to get up every half hour or so and walk around for a minute or two.

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

Musculoskeletal disorders is a broad category that includes damage to the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, or tendons. It encompasses a number of common ergonomic conditions, such as:

People whose job involves heavy lifting, twisting, bending, reaching, stretching, pushing, or lifting heavy loads are at higher risk of musculoskeletal injuries. This includes occupations like nursing, early childhood education, and construction – all of which can involve holding awkward postures and positions while carrying out daily tasks.


MSDs are the most reported injuries and the ones that result in the greatest worker absenteeism. According to the CDC, companies in the United States have spent approximately 45 to 54 billion dollars on costs associated with work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Research conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed that MSDs were the single largest category of workplace injuries, and were responsible for almost 33 percent of all workers’ compensation costs.

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are largely preventable. Ergonomics specialists say that showing workers proper procedures and providing aids like back braces will help decrease muscle fatigue. This, in turn, increases productivity and decreases the number and severity of MSDs.

(Learn more about Back Support Belts: The Simple Tool that Can Help Prevent Injuries)

Cumulative Trauma Disorders

Cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) is a category of ergonomic conditions that include repetitive strain injuries, repetitive motion disorders, and overuse syndrome. CTDs is caused by the body's inability to complete its muscles' natural cycle of contraction and relaxation.

Cumulative trauma disorders results from work that places repeated stress is placed on tendons, muscles, and sensitive nerve tissue. This causes inflammation or muscle damage.

Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) result from work events that are non-accidents. For instance, poor posture, repetitive movement, or prolonged sitting or standing causing pain.

Repetitive motion injuries (RMIs), on the other hand, are caused by repeated motion. For instance, carpal tunnel syndrome and neck stress from scanning items or typing.

The most common CTDs include:

  • Inflammation of the tendons (tendinitis)
  • Inflammation of the synovial sheath (tendonsynovitis)
  • Compression of the median nerve, when there is swelling of tendons and sheaths, or repeated wrist bending (carpal tunnel)

The risk of CTDs increases with bad work habits, such as holding a poor posture or spending too long at a work station without any breaks.

The following symptoms are observed in people with CTDs:

  • Fingers, palms, fingers, wrists, legs, or hands feel numb, tingly, or “asleep”
  • Hands or feet feel achy, throbbing, or in pain
  • Hands or fingers feel weak or poorly coordinated
  • Sharp pain, tingling, burning, or numbness – enough to disrupt sleep or keep someone awake at night
  • Discomfort in the hands – enough to disrupt sleep

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Written by Brian Carmody | President

Brian Carmody

Manufacturer of "StableRise", a revolutionary ergonomic table designed specifically for clinicians to work with electronic medical records while saving physical space in the exam room and maintaining eye contact with their patients. Combines height-adjustable ergonomics with a patient-facing experience at the point of care.

Manufacturer of the "LifeDesk", the electric, height adjustable, sit-to-stand desk designed to keep workers healthier, and more engaged, at their desks.

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