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Revisions and Guidelines for Ergonomics in the Workplace

While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has worked for years to develop a workable Ergonomic standard, it has yet to come up with an enforceable rule.  Short of a standard development, they have issued guidelines for employers to implement.  And although there is no standard, OSHA conducts inspections for ergonomic hazards and issue citations under the General Duty Clause and issue ergonomic hazard alert letters where appropriate.

Ergonomic issues have always been at the forefront of injuries and illnesses.  Muscle strains,  carpal tunnel issues, rotator cuff injuries, lifting and twisting incidents are just a few of the musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)and cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) that also become recordable injuries found during recordkeeping audits.  Many employers feel that there is not much that they can do to improve this situation.  What they may fail to realize is that they can be proactive in reducing days away from work, restricted work time, workers’ compensation costs, and employee discomfort and pain. 

Current Ergonomics Guidelines

The following guidelines can offer resources as a company begins to analyze and correct ergonomic hazards in their workplace:

Guidelines for Shipyards: Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders. OSHA 3341-03N, (2008). Also available as a 2 MB PDF, 52 pages. OSHA issued the ergonomic guidelines for the shipyards industry on February 28, 2008.

Guidelines for Poultry Processing: Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders. OSHA 3213-09N, (2004). Also available as a 580 KB PDF, 28 pages.  OSHA issued the ergonomic guidelines for the poultry processing industry on September 2, 2004.

Guidelines for Retail Grocery Stores: Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders. OSHA 3192-05N, (2004). Also available as a 921 KBPDF, 29 pages.
OSHA issued the ergonomic guidelines for the retail grocery stores industry on May 28, 2004.

Guidelines for Nursing Homes: Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders. OSHA 3182, (Revised 2009). Also available as a 2 MB PDF, 44 pages.
OSHA issued the ergonomic guidelines for the nursing home industry on March 13, 2003. The document was updated on September 12, 2005.

Future Ergonomic Guidelines 

OSHA plans to develop additional voluntary guidelines with the use of a standard protocol.

Previously Completed Ergonomic Guidelines

Ergonomics Program Management Guidelines for Meatpacking Plants. OSHA, (1993), 4 MB PDF*, 40 pages.

How do I look for conditions that may contribute to musculoskeletal disorders?

There are several approaches that may be used to determine whether conditions in the workplace might be contributing to employees developing MSDs. These approaches can be used individually or in combination.

Review and analyze injury and illness records to determine whether there is a pattern of ergonomic-related injuries in certain jobs or work tasks:

  1. OSHA 300 Logs and supporting 301 forms
  2. Workers' Compensation claims
  3. Analyze the jobs or work tasks themselves to identify potential ergonomic problems before employee injuries occur. Determine if jobs present ergonomic risks that may contribute to musculoskeletal disorders.
  4. Analysis tools may help in analyzing jobs. While there is no one size fits all approach, there are numerous non-OSHA, voluntary analysis tools that may be used to learn more about potential ergonomic risks associated with jobs.
  5. Seek employee input about the existence of ergonomic problems related to particular jobs or work tasks. This may be accomplished, among other ways:
    1. by speaking with employees
    2. by conducting symptom surveys
    3. through the use of employee questionnaires
  6. Be aware of common contributing conditions within your industry or job classifications. If other companies in the same industry have ergonomic-related problems, then it is possible these potential problems are also your concern. Obtain information from others in your industry:
    1. to see what problems others have experienced in their operations
    2. to better understand potential problems that may exist in your workplace.

Make your workplace a more comfortable place to work.  Remember – the best posture is the next posture!


Submitted by
Sharon Roman
Regulatory Compliance Consultants, Inc.
OSHA Outreach Instructor
American Heart Association Instructor Trainer


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