Chapter 17


Approved by Melanie Alexandre
Revised 10/13

17.1 Policy
17.2 Scope
17.3 Applicability
17.4 Exceptions
17.5 Roles and Responsibilities
17.6 Definitions
17.7 Work Processes – Elements of the Ergonomics Program

Work Process A. Ergo Control Measures

  1. Understanding Risk Factors
  2. Eliminating/Reducing Risk Factors
  3. Other Control Measures
  4. Early Reporting and Intervention

Work Process B. Office, Lab, and Industrial Ergo

  1. Office Ergo
  2. Lab Ergo
  3. Industrial Ergo

Work Process C. Ergo Evaluations
Work Process D. Training
Work Process E. Support for Off-Site/Remote Computer Users
Work Process F. Resources

17.8 Source Requirements
17.9 Reference Documents

. . . . . Denotes a new chapter or section.
. . . . . . . . Denotes the beginning of changed text within a section.
. . . . . . . . Denotes the end of changed text within a section.


17.1 Policy

The Ergonomics Program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) assists all Laboratory divisions in identifying, preventing, and controlling ergonomics risk factors. The Ergonomics Program strives to be a value-added program that is integrated into the safety culture at Berkeley Lab.
The goal of the Ergonomics Program is to optimize work practices, software, furniture, tools, and equipment used at Berkeley Lab to increase employee effectiveness and to minimize employee exposure to risk factors for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs). 

17.2 Scope

The Ergonomics Program facilitates work performed at Berkeley Lab by taking a systematic view of people, their work tasks, work space, software, and equipment to help create an environment where people can work safely and efficiently.

The Ergonomics Program operates at three levels to achieve these goals:

  1. Prevention: Work with designers, project managers, vendors, procurement representatives, and end-users to ensure that tools, equipment, work processes, and computer software are user-friendly and do not present unnecessary risks such as repetition, high force, awkward postures, or wasted time and motion. At this level, the emphasis is on minimizing risks before investing in new tools or implementing new processes.
  2. Customer Care: Work with individual employees and supervisors to control/minimize employee discomfort, make physical and work-process changes to mitigate risk factors for musculoskeletal problems, and accommodate people’s sizes and work styles to allow them to work as comfortably and effectively as possible.
  3. Alignment: Reach out to science and Operations divisions/departments faced with challenging ergonomics issues, e.g., injury-prone tasks, complex material-handling jobs, unique equipment integration, new laboratories, that might affect the health and safety of their employees. Work with these divisions and their Division Safety Coordinators to ensure Ergonomics Program elements are in place to mitigate ergo issues at a local level with an emphasis on making employees more self-reliant.

The Ergonomics Program consists of:

The Ergonomics Program performs the following functions:

17.3 Applicability

This program applies to all Berkeley Lab employees, affiliates, and Laboratory-supervised subcontractors. Any represented employee can refer to the Human Resources Policies and Contracts Web page for specific requirements.

17.4 Exceptions


17.5 Roles and Responsibilities



Division directors

  • Ensure that the work performed by their division is planned and executed to minimize employees’ exposure to hazards, including those related to ergonomics 
  • Ensure division Integrated Safety Management (ISM) Implementation Plans specifically address ergonomic hazards and controls in practical and meaningful terms, and that these measures are effectively implemented
  • Ensure that the division fully participates in those elements of the Berkeley Lab Ergonomics Program that affecting that division’s staff
  • Ensure that managers, supervisors, and work leads address ergonomic hazards as they perform routine safety walk-arounds
  • Work with their Division Safety Coordinator to develop and implement a division-wide Ergonomics Program with an emphasis on making employees self-reliant 

Managers, supervisors, and work leads

  • Conduct safety walk-arounds and self-assessments that include observation of ergonomic practices, workplace conditions, and monitoring of employee comfort status
  • Contact the Ergo Team for assistance with any concerns regarding ergonomic issues
  • Ensure that employees complete ergonomic training for computer users, laboratory tasks, and manual material handling as needed
  • Work with employees whose online ergo training results (EHS0058 Ergo Self-Assessment Refresher and  EHS0059 Ergo Self-Assessment for Computer Users)indicate that they are in moderate or high risk, and implement corrective actions in their Remedy Interactive risk profile to lower their risk level
  • Specify and acquire necessary furniture, tools, and accessories that support the types of tasks they supervise and that minimize awkward postures and/or motions
  • Frequently encourage staff to take hourly rest breaks or to periodically change work activities to minimize repetition and static working postures
  • Frequently ask staff if they are experiencing any work-related discomfort and encourage early reporting
  • Request a discomfort evaluation in the Ergo Database for any employee who is experiencing discomfort
  • During the discomfort evaluation and the ensuing problem-solving process, check in with the employee to make sure changes are producing desirable outcomes and that the employee is making steady progress. If discomfort is not subsiding several weeks after ergonomic changes are in place, send the employee to Health Services.
  • Request preventive evaluations for employees whose risk exposures might be amplified due to new projects, cyclical spikes in workloads, new technologies, or new work settings
  • Access the Ergo Database for ergonomic evaluation findings, action items, and information after their employee’s ergonomic evaluation, and implement recommendations in a timely manner
  • Implement actions assigned to a supervisor and monitor the employee’s compliance with recommendations from ergo evaluations, including habit/behavioral changes
  • Ensure work groups with non-computer ergonomic concerns (e.g., those who work in biological and other laboratory settings, custodial services, and manual material handling) request that the Ergo Team provide ergonomic training, review, and/or evaluations focused on such areas, as needed. 
  • Support and monitor employees with ergo-related injuries to ensure they are comfortable and safe. Further information regarding injury review and reporting can be found in the ES&H Manual, Section 5.1, Incident Reviewing and Reporting


  • Complete required ergonomics training and the Ergo Self-Assessment for Computer Users and WorkSmart material-handling training (as required)
  • Properly utilize tools, equipment, and accessories; and perform work safely
  • Promptly notify your supervisor of the presence of ergonomic risk factors or early signs of musculoskeletal discomfort, even if you are not sure if the discomfort is work-related. Early reporting is essential to reduce the likelihood of developing an injury.
  • Request an ergonomic evaluation in the Ergo Database if you are concerned with the presence of ergonomic risk factors or discomfort
  • With assistance from your supervisor and Division Safety Coordinator, implement ergo evaluation recommendations in a timely manner
  • Report to the Health Services medical clinic for assistance if discomfort/symptoms are severe or if you are not making slow and steady progress in reducing discomfort several weeks after ergonomic changes are in place

Division Safety Coordinators (DSCs)

  • Administer the division’s Environment, Safety & Health (ES&H) program, including ergonomics. Division Safety Coordinators may also be Division Ergo Advocates and/or work closely with Division Ergo Advocates. Refer to Section 1.7, Roles and Responsibilities, in the General ES&H Requirements, Responsibilities, and Work Practices program of the ES&H Manual for further details.
  • Work with supervisors and the Ergo Team to triage employees’ ergonomic risk exposures and discomfort evaluations to facilitate early intervention
  • Perform ergonomic walk-throughs to proactively identify ergonomic problems and/or employee discomfort cases
  • Develop division ergonomics program elements with emphasis on the risk exposures that have the most impact on staff
  • Manage a small inventory of ergonomic “quick fix” products to reduce response time
  • Select one or more Ergo Advocates to collaborate with the DSC and the Ergo Team to provide effective coverage of ergonomic  issues at multiple locations within each division

Division Ergo Advocates

  • Act as a resource to employees, managers, and Division Safety Coordinators for ergonomic-related concerns
  • Reinforce good work practices to reduce at-risk behaviors
  • Access the results of employee self-evaluations, such as Remedy Interactive, and follow up with computer users who are at moderate risk (yellow zone) and high risk (red zone)
  • Perform preventive ergo evaluations for new hires, moves, new computer equipment or processes, and moderate- and high-risk Remedy Interactive profiles
  • Enter ergonomic evaluation results into the online Ergo Database in a timely manner, and close out ergo evaluations when action items are completed and the employee is satisfied with the results
  • Assist with move evaluations and ergonomic sweeps as indicated
  • Refer evaluations involving employee discomfort or complex situations to EHS Ergonomists
  • Monitor the implementation and effectiveness of ergonomic interventions
  • Be familiar with relevant resources including the Ergonomics @LNBL Web site, the Ergo Catalogs Web page, the Ergo Database, the Remedy Interactive system, and RSIGuard break-reminder software


  • Monitors employee risk profiles in Remedy Interactive, and alerts supervisors, Ergo Advocates, and employees to make improvements as needed to lower risk levels
  • Performs discomfort evaluations to mitigate ergonomic problems and to provide symptom control for employees
  • Works closely with Health Services staff to address first aid or recordable-injury cases to understand the full scope of an employee’s condition, to glean advice on the possible ergonomic solution, and to help case-manage the employee until issues subside
  • Provides ergonomic fittings of chairs and desks, and uses tests of ergonomic input devices to ensure they produce desirable health outcomes
  • Adjusts or modifies furniture, equipment, and/or technology to ensure desired health outcomes
  • Provides administrative and behavioral techniques, such as rest breaks, keyboard shortcuts, speech recognition, writing recognition, etc., to mitigate risks
  • Works with divisions on a project basis to do systematic problem-solving on ergo issues that might impact the health and safety of employees
  • Assists the Division Ergo Advocates with training and consultations on an ongoing basis
  • Supports Division Ergo Advocates and Division Safety Coordinators in maintaining up-to-date knowledge of the science and art of ergonomics through their participation in professional communications and conferences

Health Services Group

  • Maintains a medical management program that includes evaluation of employees with symptoms of work-related musculoskeletal disorders
    • Vision is an important component of ergonomics. Some computer users who wear corrective lenses/contacts should wear lenses designed specifically for computer use. Contact Health Services, ext. 6266, regarding eligibility requirements for computer glasses.
    • Refer to the Health Services program in the ES&H Manual for further details.

Procurement & Property Management Department, Office of the Chief Financial Officer

Prepares purchase requisitions to acquire furniture, equipment, and accessories. The buyers in this department monitor the types of products being ordered to ensure they meet ergonomic criteria specified by the EHS Division.

Facilities Division

Integrates ergonomic considerations into workspace planning, workstation design, building modifications, and move coordination with the goal of accommodating employees of various sizes and job functions while facilitating changes in technology and work processes over time

17.6 Definitions



Discomfort evaluation

Performed by Ergo Team. Requested to address the needs of employees with discomfort.



The study of human interaction with tools, equipment, software, work processes, and the environment in which people function. The goal is to fit the job to the person. Ergonomics recognizes the capabilities, differences, and limitations of individuals, and adjusts the tools, work process, or work environment accordingly.

Ergonomic evaluation

An ergonomic evaluation (ergo eval) is performed by the Ergo Team to observe a worker’s workstation, workplace, and/or behaviors (e.g., body mechanics) to identify risk factors 

Manual material handling

Materials being moved directly by people: Includes lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, reaching, bending, and crouching to move and handle objects manually.

Move evaluation

Performed by the Ergo Team. Can be requested when an office move occurs and an employee wants to ensure the new set up is optimal and safe.

Preventive evaluation

Commonly performed by Ergo Advocates. Can be requested to proactively address ergonomic issues for new or existing employees.

Risk factors

Conditions that contribute to the risk of developing a disorder. In the case of work-related musculoskeletal disorders, these include awkward postures, highly repetitive activities, the application of high forces, static positions (maintained over long periods of time), exposure to hand-arm or whole-body vibration, and exposure of hands or feet to temperatures cold enough to cause discomfort.

Work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WRMSD)

The term used for health disorders arising from biomechanical stresses on the body, including those of a cumulative nature. WRMSDs are disorders of the muscles, tendons, and/or nerves that develop from or are aggravated by repeated or sustained exertions on the body. WRMSDs are also referred to as cumulative trauma disorders, repetitive motion injuries, repetitive strain injuries, repetitive trauma disorders, and overuse injuries.

17.7 Work Processes – Elements of the Ergonomics Program

Work Process A. Ergo Control Measures

  1. Understanding Risk Factors
  2. Eliminating/Reducing Risk Factors
  3. Other Control Measures
  4. Early Reporting and Intervention

Work Process B. Office, Lab, and Industrial Ergo

  1. Office Ergo
  2. Lab Ergo
  3. Industrial Ergo

Work Process C. Ergo Evaluations
Work Process D. Training
Work Process E. Support for Off-Site/Remote Computer Users
Work Process F. Resources

Work Process A. Ergo Control Measures

  1. Understanding Risk Factors: Identifying and reducing ergonomic risk factors is a key to preventing WRMSDs. Ergo risk factors include repetitive, forceful, or prolonged exertion of the hands; frequent or heavy lifting; pushing, pulling, or carrying objects; prolonged awkward postures; cold temperatures; and vibrations contribute to the risk of WRMSDs. The level of risk depends on how long a worker is exposed to these conditions, how often a worker is exposed to them, and the level of exposure.      
  2. Eliminating/ Reducing Risk Factors: Physical changes to the tools or workplace should be addressed as the first line of defense to eliminate or reduce ergonomic risk factors. It is important to implement solutions that can eliminate the risk factors when feasible. 
  3. Good Body Posture: Reducing the length of time spent in awkward postures is important for minimizing the risk of developing a WRMSD. Equipment, tools, furniture, and the visual demands of a job have a direct effect on posture.
    Awkward postures (left) improved by ergonomics interventions (right)

  5. Other Control Measures
    1. Broadening Range of Tasks: Have employees perform more parts of a job rather than one specific task repeatedly, as long as this involves the use of different muscle groups.
    2. Job Rotation: Cross-train employees to perform other jobs. Rotate employees in jobs that use different muscle groups, if possible.
    3. Work Breaks: Have employees take frequent short breaks from static postures or repetitive tasks throughout the day.
  6. Early Reporting and Intervention
    1. The Berkeley Lab Ergo Team is highly effective in preventing discomfort from progressing into an injury when discomfort is reported early, as soon as an employee is feeling discomfort. It is important for employees to report discomfort to their supervisor, to ask their supervisor for an ergonomics evaluation, and/or to contact the Ergo Team for an ergonomics evaluation. Discomfort does not equal injury. Everyone has discomfort at some point. Early reporting is key to preventing discomfort from turning into an injury.
    2. When employees report DISCOMFORT, supervisors are encouraged to:
      1. Thank the employee for reporting his/her discomfort
      2. Immediately notify their Division Safety Coordinator
      3. Submit a request for an ergonomist to perform an ergo evaluation through the Ergo Database
      4. Discuss initial findings and observations with the ergonomist
      5. Review the ergo evaluation summary, and implement actions assigned to you
      6. Check in with the employee often to make sure the recommendations are working and that the employee’s discomfort is subsiding
      7. Discuss with the employee the need to seek medical treatment from Health Services if discomfort is not subsiding within several weeks after recommendations are implemented

Work Process B. Office, Lab, and Industrial Ergo

  1. Office Ergo: A computer workstation should be designed to accommodate each user. Furniture adjustability is the key, as it allows each employee to fit his or her individual needs. The best choice for working patterns and postures will differ from one person to another, based on the type of work performed.
  2. Lab Ergo: Laboratory tasks can include awkward postures, precision work with hands, reaching, and bending forward. The Berkeley Lab Ergonomics Program aims to address ergonomics risks in the laboratories. Please contact [email protected] for assistance in examining your laboratory area/tasks.
  3. Industrial Ergo: When ergonomics is applied at an industrial work area (e.g., workshops, hand-tool use, material handling, and process areas), it is known as industrial ergonomics. The same WRMSD risk factors are relevant and good work practices and body posture should be employed to minimize muscle tension and strain.
    1. Hand Tools: A tool that is poorly designed, maintained, or inappropriately used can cause WRMSDs. Hand tools should fit the employee's hand. Employees with small hands or who are left-handed may need tools designed specifically for these situations. A tool that works well in one situation may expose the user to awkward postures, harmful pressures on the hand, or excessive vibration in another situation. Additional guidelines are available at the Hand Tools page of the [email protected] Web site.
    2. Manual Material Handling
      1. Manual material handling involves lifting, lowering, and carrying objects. If ergonomics principles are ignored, stresses on the muscles, joints, and disks in the back can eventually lead to or aggravate a WRMSD. For objects that are too heavy or bulky for safe manual handling by employees, mechanical lifting devices must be used for lifting and moving (See the ES&H Manual programs, Cranes, Hoists, and Rigging Safety and Forklifts and Other Powered Industrial Trucks).
      2. Mechanical lifting devices (rather than manual effort) are the best first option to lift and move objects whenever practical and feasible.
      3. The Ergo Team has tools and resources to provide guidance and assistance in determining the risks and safe limits for lifting, pushing, pulling, and carrying.
      5. Lifting limits should also take into account the weight of the load, location of the load, the frequency and duration of lifting, and whether lifting involves twisting. The Tables 1–3 below indicate situations in which loads can be more or less than 50 pounds.
      6. Berkeley Lab–Recommended Lifting Limits (in Pounds) as Shown in Tables 1–3:
        1. There are three tables: one for low-, medium-, and high-frequency lifting. Each table considers the load’s horizontal location (from the spine) and the vertical location (from the floor). The intersection of the horizontal location and the vertical location yields the recommended limits (in frequency and duration) for that type of lift during the shift.
        2. To choose a table, determine the duration of the task (less than 2 hours or more than 2 hours/day) and the frequency of lifts per hour.

          Table 1. Low-Frequency Lifting: Less Than 2 Hours/Day or More Than 2 Hours/Day with Less Than 12 Lifts/Hour

          Table 2. Moderate-Frequency Lifting: More Than 2 Hours/Day and Less Than 30 Lifts/Hour

          Table 3. High-Frequency Lifting: More Than 2 Hours/Day and Less Than 360 Lifts/Hour

          Tables adapted from the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH),
          Threshold Limit Values for Physical Agents, Ergonomics, 2005. Publication #7DOC-734, 2005

Work Process C. Ergo Evaluations

  1. Purpose: Ergo evaluations can be performed for individuals, groups, and work areas for office, lab, and material-handling tasks. Ergo evaluations identify ergo risk factors, and propose solutions for preventing and reducing risk.
  2. Requesting an Ergo Evaluation: Preventive, move, and discomfort ergo evaluations can be requested by accessing the Ergo Database.
  3. Using the Ergo Database: The Ergo Database is a primary tool for managing ergo evaluations. It is used for communication, monitoring, tracking, and referencing past ergo evaluation information. The Ergo Database is used as a means of entering observations and recommendations, and tracking the actions stemming from the evaluation.

Work Process D. Training

Ergo training resources include:

Work Process E. Support for Off-Site/Remote Computer Users

  1. The Ergo Team offers support services for Berkeley Lab employees who use computers off site for telecommuting and working at a remote location.
  2. Employees working off site should contact the Ergo Team to:
    1. Discuss any ergonomic concerns. The employee, supervisor, or Division Safety Coordinator should initiate this discussion by sending an e-mail to [email protected] with attached photographs of the work area, followed by telephone call(s) as needed.
    2. Obtain assistance with implementing any recommendations deemed necessary to control risk factors for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs).
  3. The Telecommuting Agreement and Authorization Form may be downloaded from the HR Documents Web page.

Work Process F. Resources

Several ergonomic-specific resources are available to support Berkeley Lab employees:

  1. The Ergo Display Room is located in Building 78, Room 101. With the assistance of an Ergo Team member, employees can try out various ergonomic furniture and accessories. Some items are available to borrow and use at the employee’s workplace on a trial basis. The purchase of ergonomic furniture and accessories is the responsibility of each employee’s supervisor, and the cost is the responsibility of the employee’s division.
  2. The Ergo Catalogs Web page lists catalogs for office and lab products as well as services, including computer glasses, ergo-related facilities services, posture/habits recommendations, and the Ergo Display Room.
  3. The [email protected] Web site is the Laboratory’s one-stop shop for all ergo-related information, including Quick Links, Ergo Program Resources, Work Area Resources, Ergo Training, Resources for Home, and Additional Resources.
  4. The 1 Minute 4 Safety slides are designed to assist Berkeley Lab supervisors and managers in conducting discussions on Environment, Safety & Health (ES&H) topics with their staff. The slides can be either downloaded or printed.
  5. RSIGuard is a site-licensed break-reminder software available for either Macs or PCs. RSIGuard has customizable break reminders, microbreaks (forget-me-nots), key controls, and auto-click  features.
  6. Contacts

17.8 Source Requirements

17.9 Reference Documents



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