Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders

Elements of Ergonomics Programs

At a glance

The Elements of Ergonomics Programs is a step-by-step guide to help company employers, workers, and safety professionals prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) in a variety of workplace settings.

Engineers in safety vest with helmet in front of a factory machine.


This site helps employers, workers, and safety professionals design an effective ergonomics program to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs).

The guide outlines practical strategies for identifying and correcting ergonomic deficiencies in a variety of workplace settings. You can tailor the information to your particular work setting or situation. It also provides a number of useful materials, including references, sources for further information, and generic forms and questionnaires.


This site is based on the original document, Elements of Ergonomics Programs (1997 version).

Ergonomics guidance on safe patient handling

This guide focuses on ways to minimize physical exertion in jobs that involve lifting and handling objects, not people. Ergonomics guidance for patient handling requires methods and equipment that are highly specialized for the needs of healthcare tasks and settings.

Safe Patient Handling and Mobility ‎

You can find information on Safe Patient Handling and Mobility (SPHM) on the NIOSH SPHM topic page.

Start caring about WMSDs

WMSDs are costly and can significantly reduce worker productivity and morale. Workers suffering from WMSDs have difficulty meeting the demands of their jobs. In 2019 The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 29% (325,270) of cases were related to WMSDs. These were out the total nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work.

The median days away from work for a WMSD is 14 days, compared to nine days off for other work-related injuries. Ergonomics programs enable employers to detect WMSD problems and develop solutions.1 Implementing ergonomics programs has many benefits including:

  • Preventing further losses in productivity, quality, and profit
  • Lowering rates of absenteeism, lost time injury.
  • Reducing worker compensation premiums.

To design an ergonomic intervention for WMSDs you must understand work-processes, job tasks, equipment, and workplace layouts. Your first objective is to determine whether machines or people are best suited to complete a particular job task. Ideally, workers should not experience undue stress or strain when using tools, job methods, workstation layouts, and materials. Develop a proactive engineering approach that eliminates the risk factors for WMSDs in that job. Proactive action can help management and workers anticipate and prevent WMSD problems.

Key terms ‎

Review definitions of key terms on the Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders page.

Use this guidance to prevent WMSDs

NIOSH is able to provide this guide to employers and workers because of its extensive practical experience with evaluating workplace settings. Use the following step-by-step pages on this site to evaluate and address musculoskeletal concerns in your workplace.

There are 7 simple steps:

NIOSH recommends ergonomics programs be used to supplement existing occupational health and safety management systems.

  1. United States. (1997). Worker protection: Private sector ergonomics programs yield positive results : report to Congressional requesters. Washington, D.C. (P.O. Box 37050, Washington 20013: The Office. iconexternal iconHEHS-97-163 Worker Protection: Private Sector Ergonomics Programs Yield Positive Results (