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Ergonomics: The Employee's Role

Learn and practice basic ergonomic principles to reduce job-related discomfort and injuries.

Most work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are preventable when you understand and apply basic ergonomic principles.

Be aware of ergonomic risk factors.

Get ergonomic training.

Understanding and practicing basic ergonomic principles is the first defense against possible injury.

Evaluate your workplace.

Become a keen observer of your own posture and how you interact with your workstation and equipment.
  • Observe the patterns of work taking place throughout the day. Look for ways to change your task patterns to reduce repetitive motions and strain.
  • Rearrange or adjust your equipment to make it easier and more comfortable to use.
  • Look for environmental conditions that may add unnecessary strain:
    • Is lighting adequate for the job?
    • How's the temperature?
    • Is there excessive noise or vibration?

Practice task rotation.

Make a conscious effort to use different muscle groups.
  • Alternate tasks. When a particular task involves repetitive motion or holding the same position for a long time, interrupt it with a micro-break. Periodically stop and do a different task so no one group of muscles becomes overtaxed.
  • Get up and move! Of the 3 positions most of us assume during the day—standing, sitting, and lying down—sitting is definitely the most stressful. If your work involves sitting for long periods of time, periodically get up and move around. Stand up while you return phone calls.
  • Stretch to refresh muscles and nerves, relieving the strain of maintaining the same position for long periods of time.

Report symptoms.

Early intervention is key to preventing or minimizing injury. MSD's usually develop gradually. Symptoms such as pain, numbness, and tingling in the upper extremities are often ignored until the condition becomes chronic or permanent injury occurs.
  • Notify your supervisor or safety coordinator immediately if you are experiencing pain or discomfort.
  • Contact the Workers' Compensation Office. For details, see What to Do if a Work-Related Injury or Illness Occurs.
  • Don't delay. Promptly making changes in the workplace can significantly reduce the potential for severe injuries, and speed recovery when they do occur.

Practice ergonomic principles everywhere.

Since non-work activities can also cause or contribute to discomfort and medical impairments, practice ergonomic principles outside the workplace as well.

  • Bring ergonomic awareness to your recreation and sports activities.
  • Apply ergonomic principles and work practices at your home computer workstation.

Campus Funded employees contact EH&S Ergo Team

For UCSD Health or Medical Center-Funded Employees, please visit UCSD Health Ergonomic Evaluation Request or contact if you have questions.

Notice: Ergonomics information, training, and services are intended exclusively for UC San Diego employees and affiliates.