Key Takeaways

- Ergonomic-related risks exist in most workplaces and can negatively affect safety and health, quality, efficiency and overall operational success.

- While ANSI/ASSP Z590.3-2021, the prevention through design (PTD) standard, includes ergonomics and human factors engineering concepts, these considerations are sometimes overlooked by organizations and designers. The lack of ergonomic principles in workplace design can lead to inherently flawed systems that are costly to retrofit and correct.

- The greatest opportunity to avoid, eliminate and reduce ergonomic-related risks is by incorporating ergonomics and human factors engineering in the design and redesign of processes, equipment, facilities, tools and work methods.

- OSH professionals have an opportunity to help integrate prevention through ergonomics into the PTD process.


The message is loud and clear—one of the greatest opportunities for occupational risk and safety professionals is the application of prevention through ergonomics (PTE). Ergonomic-related risks abound in all types of work environments and account for a large portion of workplace incidents and their costs in almost all industries. According to studies and reports from Liberty Mutual (2019) and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2020), soft-tissue disorders known as work-related musculoskeletal disorders account for 33% of all disabling occupational injuries and more than 40% of total workers’ compensation costs. In addition to the injury and illness costs, workplace systems (e.g., facilities, premises, tools, equipment, machinery, products, processes, methods) that lack fundamental ergonomics and human factors principles often lead to lower productivity and efficiency, lower quality of products and services, lower employee morale, higher employee turnover and overall higher costs to the organization. And in addition to increased work-related musculoskeletal disorders, systems with poor ergonomics and human factors can create error-prone or error-causing situations. These facts seem to beg the question, why aren’t ergonomics and human factors part of the design specifications, procurement and assessment process?

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