Common Ergonomic Hazards

An ongoing challenge inherent to workplace safety is managing ergonomic risks that cause injuries and costly workers’ compensation claims. Ergonomic risk is present in every type of workplace in every industry, in any task that requires a worker to perform labour of any kind. The primary challenge for safety leaders is to identify ergonomic hazards in the workplace, develop effective interventions, and deploy improvements that reduce the risk of injury or chronic pain.  


“An ergonomic injury is one which results from prolonged strain, pressure, or incorrect posture due to a specific ergonomic hazard. Such injuries make up 33% of all worker injury and illnesses according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Source: eCompliance  

Today, let’s discuss some of the most common ergonomic risks: 


Workstation & Equipment Hazards  

The main idea driving the field of ergonomics is fitting the job and the tools needed to complete the job to the individual worker performing the tasks. Ill-fitting and out-of-date equipment and poor layout can pose serious safety risks to employees, whether these outdated tools make tasks more difficult or because they are poorly fitted to the worker. Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) account for about one-third of all work-related injuries and can often be traced back to workstation design or tooling issues. 


Workstations, such as assembly tables or office desktops, must be adjusted to fit each worker. Monitors should be placed at eye level for the employee so that the worker does not need to bend their neck down or up to look at the screen. Assembly tables and other manual workstations should be placed at a height that allows the employee to perform tasks without bending the lower back, arching the shoulders, or continuously flexing the arms or wrists. Common work-related injuries such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are often caused by improper equipment orientation, which leads to wrist strain.  


These issues are quickly addressed with an ergonomic assessment conducted by a certified specialist. During an ergonomic risk assessment, the provider will analyze departments and individual workstations to identify problems in both engineering and administrative controls that can lead to injuries. 


Overexertion Injuries  

Overexertion injuries are another common category of workplace risk for employees, especially those in manufacturing, warehousing, and specialized industries such as aviation and baggage handling. Tasks requiring large amounts of force, such as lifting heavy items or performing manual tasks overhead, and even repetitive motions over prolonged periods can involve the risk of strains and sprains, even as these types of tasks are often necessary to fulfill a worker’s job responsibilities. 


To mitigate the risk associated with these tasks, employers can seek industrial athlete training, which includes science-backed concepts from biomechanics, physics, and sports medicine. Athletic and personal trainers can help teach workers safe movement techniques for high-exertion tasks, helping eliminate the inherent risk while instilling easy-to-retain behaviours that improve performance and safety outcomes. Strength training can replace traditional stretch and flex programs, boosting workers’ fitness and flexibility. Higher strength levels translate to a lower risk of overexertion injuries. 



Fatigue is a wide-ranging problem in virtually every industry and increases the risk for MSDs and other ergonomic injuries and incidents. While fatigue stems largely from inadequate sleep, poor workstation configuration, outdated tooling, and inefficient task design can exacerbate fatigue.  


With an ergonomic site risk assessment, your specialist will help you identify problems in scheduling and rostering practices that can contribute to fatigue, including consecutive night shift assignments. Adding breaks throughout shifts can also help combat fatigue. Wearable technology such as a wrist-mounted device regularly monitors and checks employees’ energy and concentration levels throughout a shift, identifying when performance declines and notifying managers of possible risks. Other solutions, such as sensor wearables and motion capture, can quickly and effectively identify the areas of risk that need to be addressed. Predictive software can also analyze your worksites and schedules for factors that might reduce fatigue, providing a roadmap for improvements. 


Chronic Pain  

Chronic pain is a highly costly problem for employers of all types, especially those in high-exertion industries. Many factors can contribute to employee pain levels, and the consequences can be severe. Prescription pain medication usage, lost workdays, decreased productivity, and mental health issues can all stem from chronic pain in workers. Repetitive motions, improperly oriented workstations, and outdated tools often lead to pain. 


Solutions to chronic pain include training to improve fitness and movement techniques and soft-tissue pain-relief therapies. These treatments, available on-site from a certified massage therapist or other provider, target joints, ligaments, and other tissues, helping improve blood flow and flexibility so employees can do their jobs without pain. 


Mental Health 

It may sound counterintuitive, but mental health challenges among workers are a growing issue with ties to ergonomic and other physical workplace factors. Many of today’s workforce report experiencing anxiety and depression, which can be worsened by pain, fatigue, and feelings that employers are not adequately supporting their employees. On-site services such as the pain-relief therapies and fatigue management strategies described above can help mitigate the risk of mental health issues.  


While many factors contribute to ergonomic risk, fatigue, chronic pain, and mental health challenges, the solutions always involve investment from the employer in a positive organizational safety culture.

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