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Many industrial operations are carried out in awkward postures, with repetitive motions, causing various musculo-skeletal disorders, like low back pain and neck pain among workers. These disorders are multifactorial, and coupled with poor health, cause a high incidence of absenteeism and loss of productivity.

Handling and storing of materials involves diverse operations such as hoisting tons of steel with a crane, driving a truck loaded with blocks, carrying bags or materials manually, and stacking refractory bricks or other materials.

Recently an ‘umbrella’ term has been introduced for these conditions, called RSI [Repetitive Strain Injuries] or MSD [Musculoskeletal disorders]. Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are injuries and disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs. Examples include rotator cuff tendinitis, herniated or ruptured lumbar discs, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Other synonyms include cumulative trauma disorder (CTD), repetitive stress injury (RSI), and repetitive motion injury (RMI). These are multifactorial which means that the factors leading to them can be diverse widespread and cumulative. MSDs can be directly and indirectly related to aspects of the work or the work environment known as risk factors. Non-work activities and environments that expose people to these risk factors also can cause or contribute to MSDs. When an MSD is associated with work it is usually referred to as a Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorder (WRMSD or WMSD).

Any given patient with the symptoms of MSD would approach his or her doctor who would treat the condition appropriately but might not take a detailed occupational history which would obviously result in recurrence of symptoms. Sometimes the patient might have to consult a specialist and the condition might need prolonged treatment and sometimes even surgery. A good ergonomic survey would identify the risk factors leading to the concerned RSI.


Risk factors

MSD risk factors can be defined as “actions in the workplace, workplace conditions, or a combination there of that may cause or aggravate an MSD” Examples include forceful exertion, awkward postures, repetitive exertion, and exposure to environmental factors such as extreme heat, cold, humidity or vibration. Often, a combination of these risk factors over time can lead to pain, injury, and disability.

These injuries may be chronic and insidious and not noticeable straightaway. The strains and sprains can result

  • From lifting loads improperly or from carrying loads that are either too large or too heavy, or without proper handles.
  • Improper position while handling items.
  • Poor tools or handling equipment and poor protective gear.
  • Fractures and bruises caused by being struck by materials or by being caught in pinch points.
  • Cuts and bruises caused by falling materials that have been improperly stored.
  1. Risk factors related to the worker
    • The problems of body size - Anthropometry
    • Posture
    • Force requirements – Material Handling
  2. Risk factors related to the task
    • Design for human use - Compatibility
    • Layout
    • Seating
    • Psycho-social factors
    • Work organization
    • Configuration of hardware and furniture
    • Work From Home
  3. Risk factors related to the environment
    • Visual
    • Thermal
    • Acoustic
    • Vibratory