The University of Chicago shall take the necessary steps to prevent or reduce the severity of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The steps to be taken in the Ergonomics program include, but are not limited to, engineering controls, administrative controls, work practice controls, and the provision of personal protective equipment.

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Authority and Responsibility

Environmental Health and Safety is responsible for:

  • Scheduling worksite analysis with the employee;
  • Contacting the employee’s supervisor to inform him/her of the analysis;
  • Conducting worksite analysis, including the collection of baseline information;
  • Taking pictures of or videotaping the process, if necessary;
  • Interviewing the employee;
  • Compiling a written report with recommendations for corrective action within ten business days of the initial analysis; and
  • Providing training for employees covered under this policy.

Departments are responsible for:

  • Ensuring that concerned employees are allowed to obtain a worksite analysis;
  • Following the guidelines for purchasing ergonomic furniture in Ergonomic Furniture Guidelines; and
  • Incurring the cost for personal protective equipment recommended by Environmental Health and Safety.

Employees are responsible for:

  • Utilizing the “Workstation Recommendations” in Workstation Recommendations as a guide for initial set-up of their workstation; and
  • Following any recommendations provided by Environmental Health and Safety while working at the workstation.

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Reporting Procedure

Known or Suspected Injury

Known or suspected musculoskeletal disorders shall be reported to the University of Chicago Occupational Medicine Group. The employee reporting a MSD shall follow the notifications process outlined in the Accident/Incident Reporting and Investigation Program.

Worksite Analysis

Worksite analysis identifies problem jobs or job tasks and risk factors associated with them. This essential preliminary step helps employers determine what jobs and workstations are the source of the greatest problems.

A worksite analysis shall be triggered by obtaining a licensed medical professional's recommendation, please contact Environmental Health and Safety at 773.702.9999 or safety@uchicago.edu to schedule a worksite assessment.

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Hazard Prevention

Engineering Controls

Engineering controls are the preferred method of controlling ergonomic stresses since the primary focus of ergonomic hazard abatement is to make the job fit the person, not force the person to fit the job.

The following engineering control principles need to be considered when designing a work station or recommending corrective measures:

  • Workstations shall be designed to accommodate the person who actually works at a given station and not for an average or typical employee;
  • Workstations shall be designed so that the station can be adjusted easily to accommodate the employee assigned to the station and the equipment used at the station shall be designed for that purpose;
  • The workstation shall also be sized to allow for the full range of movements required to perform assigned tasks;
  • Tasks performed by the employee in the performance of his/her responsibilities shall be designed to prevent extreme postures, repetitive motion, excessive force, and static work; and
  • Tools used in the performance of assigned tasks shall be designed to prevent or reduce chronic muscle contraction; awkward finger, hand, and arm positions; repetitive forceful motions; vibration; and excessive gripping, pinching, or pressing with the hand and fingers.

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are changes in the way work in a job is assigned or scheduled that reduce the magnitude, frequency, or duration of exposure to ergonomic risk factors. Examples of administrative controls for MSD hazards include the following:

  • Rotate employees to different tasks. Note: When rotating an employee to a different task, the new task shall use a different group of muscles, tendons, and nerves. Reduce the number of repetitive motions;
  • Job task enlargement;
  • Alternative tasks; and
  • Employer-authorized changes in work pace.

Work Practice Controls

An effective program for ergonomic hazard prevention and control also includes procedures for safe and proper work practices that are understood and followed by managers, supervisors, and employees and include the following:

  • Proper work techniques;
  • Employee training and conditioning; and
  • Proper housekeeping.

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment such as gloves, padding, clothing, or equipment shall be designed for the intended purpose. If as part of the investigation it is recommended by Environmental Health and Safety that personal protective equipment is needed, the investigator shall recommend several products. Every effort shall be made to resolve the problems using engineering and administrative controls.

No personal protective equipment shall be purchased without first consulting a representative of Environmental Health and Safety.

No personal protective equipment shall be used by the employee without the employee first being trained in the equipment’s use and care.

Note: Braces, splints, and back belts are not considered personal protective equipment and when used, shall be at the direction and under the supervision of the employee’s treating physician.

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Workstation Design Guidelines – Computer Workstation

Environmental Health and Safety recommends that the “Workstation Guidelines” in Workstation Recommendations be used as a guide while working at the computer workstation.

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Environmental Health and Safety shall facilitate training of employees covered by this policy. The curriculum of the training program shall, at a minimum, cover the following:

  • Awareness of the common MSDs and their signs and symptoms;
  • The importance of reporting MSDs and their signs and symptoms as soon as possible and the consequences of failing to report them early;
  • How to report MSDs and their signs and symptoms in the workplace;
  • The risk factors, job, and work activities associated with MSD hazards; and
  • The contents and availability of this policy.

Employees shall be required to participate in on-the-job training and awareness provided by the employee’s department.

All training shall be documented by attendance records maintained by Environmental Health and Safety.


Training shall be provided upon employment and thereafter when a process changes resulting in an exposure to new ergonomic risk factors or a new process is introduced which has ergonomic risk factors. It may be necessary to retrain an employee as a result of injury.

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Guidance Documents

Ergonomics Policy Guidance Document

Reviewed: April 2024

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