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Course 722 - Ergonomics Program Management

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Triggers for NIOSH Evaluations

Manufacturing Work Setting

A plumbing-ware manufacturing company asked NIOSH to assist in an ergonomics evaluation of their production operations after an OSHA inspection found a high number of back injuries at the facility relative to the rates at other manufacturing plants in the same industrial classification. This industry as a whole had the tenth highest OSHA reportable incidence rate in the United States for 1986. The work areas where most back injuries had occurred were identified by the plant's safety director, and the jobs believed most stressful to the workers' backs became the main targets of the evaluation that ensued [HETA 88237L1960].

Office Work Setting

NIOSH received a request from a local union representing office and professional employees of a health insurance company to evaluate potential hazards from the use of video display terminals (computers) in data entry operations. Numerous, wide-ranging symptomatic complaints had been voiced by the terminal operators, including headaches, general malaise, eyestrain and other visual problems, back pain, and stiffness and soreness in the neck and shoulder areas and upper extremities. A questionnaire used for data gathering during the evaluation verified more complaints of this nature among computer users than nonusers, and environmental and workstation measurements suggested that certain ergonomic factors contributed to these differences [HETA 79060843].

Service Work Setting

The owner and employees of a preschool day care center asked NIOSH to identify possible causes of musculoskeletal problems, chiefly back pain and lower extremity (knee) pain and discomfort, reported by the teachers and aides at the school. Subsequent data collected on symptomatic complaints and observations and analyses of work activities indicated that factors such as frequent lifting of infants and sustained periods of kneeling, stooping, squatting, and trunk bending were responsible for the problems [HETA 930995242].