Ergonomics & Back Safety Policy

Basic information

The purpose of the Ergonomic Program is to prevent the pain and suffering, as well as costs to the University, associated with workstations that are set up, or used, improperly. This is done through a combination of workplace training, evaluation of workstations and work practices, and the implementation of ergonomic control strategies.



  • The study of the relationship between people, their work and their physical work environment. The major goal of ergonomics is to fit the job to the individual and promote healthy and safe work practices.

Ergonomic Stressors:

  • Poor workplace designs can present ergonomic risk factors called stressors. These stressors may include:
    • Repetition – the number of motions or movements that are performed per cycle or per shift.
    • Force – the power of the muscles used to produce motion in order to perform necessary activities such as lifting, grasping, pinching, pushing, etc.
    • Extreme Postures – when muscles are required to work at a level near or at their maximum capacity.

Ergonomic occupational risk factors:

  • Characteristics of a work situation that may contribute to a musculoskeletal disorder.
  • These risk factors may be characteristics of the workplace, tasks, or individual work practices.

Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD):

  • An injury or illness of the soft tissues of the upper extremity, shoulders and neck, lower back, and lower extremity that is primarily caused or exacerbated by workplace risk factors, such as sustained and repeated exertions or awkward postures and manipulations. (Examples include: tendonitis, epicondylitis, rotator cuff syndrome, low-back pain.)

Repetitive Motion Injury (RMI):

  • Also known as repetitive stress injuries, an RMI is a type of stress injury that results from repetitive motions such as frequent bending or sustained awkward positioning performed over extended periods of time without allowing for sufficient rest. Examples of RMI are medical conditions resulting from repeated use of a body part.

Ergonomic hazards:

  • Means conditions where intervention may be necessary to prevent a musculoskeletal disorder.
  • Such conditions can be identified by an assessment of ergonomic occupational risk factors and reports of signs and symptoms.



  • Access proper ergonomics training to improve work practices if necessary.
  • Abide by the ergonomic guidelines as frequently as possible.
  • If an employee has a medical condition that requires accommodation, you need to submit a request form to Human Resources and have your doctor also complete a medical form that will get returned to Human Resources. Once both of these forms are complete, they will be reviewed by Calvin’s Campus Accessibility Advisory Committee. Funding for the necessary accommodations may be provided through this Committee.


  • It is the responsibility of each department head (Director, Assistant Director, Dean, etc) to support or recommend proper training for ergonomics for staff. Additionally, they are responsible for implementation of ergonomic recommendations if necessary.
  • Departments will be responsible for funding the cost of corrections based on ergonomic evaluations conducted by EHS. A detailed report with cost estimates will be provided to the employee following an evaluation. The employee shall request approval for funding from their budget officer.

Environmental Health and Safety:

  • It is the responsibility of EHS to evaluate and monitor the ergonomics program including assessing the nature and extent of ergonomics hazards, recommending ways of minimizing or controlling these hazards, and supporting the College in consultation and direction regarding ergonomics.
  • Provide training and informational sessions as requested.

Specific Program Components

  • Ergonomic Self-Evaluation
    • Employees may complete a self-assessment (Appendix A) as a tool in becoming aware of the surrounding ergonomic issues and assessing and modifying their own workstations.
    • Upon review of the form, if the employee still feels like further assistance is needed, s/he should contact EHS in Physical Plant.
  • On-site Ergonomic Evaluation conducted by EHS
    • Employees may request an ergonomic assessment of work area(s) or work process by sending an e-mail to or
    • EHS staff will schedule the assessment through Outlook calendars and include the employee’s department head on the invite.
    • EHS staff will conduct an ergonomic evaluation based on observations that include:
      • Equipment used (mouse, keyboard, pipettes, microscope, etc.)
      • Work environment including workspace, access, lighting and glare
      • Specific tasks or job processes and percentages of time performing tasks
      • Workstation alignment (employee, keyboard, and monitor in straight line)
      • Keyboard height, tilt, distance from employee, keyboard style and use of wrist rest
      • Mouse placement, style and use of mouse pad
      • Monitor height, tilt, distance from employee, size, and settings
      • Chair height, back support, and adjustability
      • Document placement
      • Other employee practices or conditions that may be a contributing factor (example: when was employee’s last eye exam?)
    • EHS will provide written recommendations to improve workstation set up. The report will be provided to the employee and their supervisor/department head. There are two general approaches to controlling ergonomics risks:
      • Engineering Controls - Changes are made to the workstations, tools, and/or machinery that alter the physical composition of area or process.
      • Administrative or Work Practice Controls - Changes are made to regulate exposure without making physical changes to the area or process; for example, taking frequent breaks and job rotations.
      • EHS will provide recommendations, but there is not an obligation to follow through with the recommendations. The University understands the benefit of ergonomics and that it’s the best interest of the University and the employee to have an ergonomically correct workstation, however, expensive corrective items will have to be considered and budgeted for.
  • Stand Up Work Stations Stand up work stations have become a popular request across campus. There is no one budget assigned to cover this expense. Employees may purchase a sit/stand workstation with their personal funds or request a sit/stand station based on a medical condition. For additional information please see the EHS guidance document: Sit/Stand Up WorkstationRequest.

Steps for the employee to take:

  1. Complete the self-assessment form in Appendix A and make indicated changes. ContactEHS to schedule a full ergonomic evaluation
    • Jennifer Ambrose – or 526-6342

Reporting Requirements

  • If an employee experiences any signs or symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders, the employee is to report their symptoms to their supervisor and complete an injury form which is found on the EHS webpage.
    • Employees may also wish to consult their personal physicians to rule out any other underlying causes.
    • The Ergonomics Program encompasses all Calvin University employees whose job functions have the potential for work related injuries and disorders. Certain aspects of our job tasks and work environments contain risk factors that may contribute to injury or disability. Through proper ergonomic assessment, potential injuries and disorders may be reduced, prevented and even eliminated.


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