This section has been reviewed and updated as needed: April 2012

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is committeed to providing a safe and healthful environment fo its employees by developing an ergonomic program (for details see the ergonomics web pages).
Ergonomics is a multidisciplinary activity dealing with the interactions between a person and their work environment.

Ergonomic Stressors

Poor workplace designs can present ergonomic risk factors called stressors. These stressors include but are not limited to repetition, force, and extreme postures.

  • Repetition: Is the number of motions or movements that are performed per cycle or per shift.
  • Force: Is the muscles used to produce force in order to perform necessary activities such as lifting, grasping, pinching, pushing, etc.
  • Extreme Postures: Is when muscles are required to work at a level near or at their maximum capacity.

Employee exposure to these stressors can cause injury or some type of Musculoskeletal Disorder.

Symptoms of MSD identify that an ergonomic hazard is present. There may be individual difference in susceptibility and symptoms among employees performing similar tasks. Any symptoms are to be taken seriously. The following list of symptoms can be but are not limited to:

  • Numbness
  • Tightness
  • Tingling
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Redness
When an ergonomic hazard has been identified, the Environment, Health and Safety Office will work with the department in eliminating or minimizing the hazard. There are two general approaches to controlling ergonomic hazards: Engineering and Administrative.

  • Engineering Controls: Are changes made to the workstations, tools, and/or machinery that alter the physical composition of area or process.
  • Administrative Controls: Are changes made to regulate exposure without making physical changes to the area or process, for example taking frequent breaks and job rotations.
All employees are responsible for attending training on ergonomics via the EHS online orientation and for following proper work practices.

Departments are responsible for providing sufficient resources to implement ergonomic recommendations in a timely manner as well as ensuring that employees are properly trained.

The Department of Environment, Health and Safety is responsible for evaluating and monitoring the ergonomic program including assessing the nature and extent of ergonomic hazards, recommending ways of minimizing or controlling these hazards, and support the University in consultation and direction regarding ergonomics. The Department of Environment, Health and Safety is also responsible for ensuring that training on ergonomics is available to all employees.

If an employee is experiencing any signs or symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders, the employee is to report their symptoms to their supervisor and call the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic (UEOHC) for a medical evaluation. The UEOHC will advise the employee, their supervisor, and the Department of Environment, Health and Safety of the necessary follow-up.
The Department of Environment, Health and Safety will provide ergonomic training to all employees in the EHS On-line Orientation Program. The training program will include but not be limited to definition of ergonomics, ergo stressors, types of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), symptoms of MSD, reporting, and work strategy control. These programs are also added to the Department of Environment, Health and Safety website for reference and future training. Job specific ergonomic training programs will be presented to Departments upon request.
Employees, Supervisors, Department Heads, and/or UEOHC may request an ergonomic assessment of work area(s) or work process(es) by contacting the Department of Environment, Health and Safety at 962-5507. The staff will conduct an ergonomic evaluation and provide written documentation for eliminating or reducing ergonomic risk factors to the employee and their supervisor.