Skip to main content

Ergonomics

The MIT EHS Industrial Hygiene Program provides ergonomic support for students and staff to help provide a workspace where you can be comfortable and productive.

Spending your workday sitting at your computer, standing in a lab or lifting heavy objects, performing day-to-day movements and repetitive actions can lead to a number of physical issues, from persistent muscle aches, tendon inflammation, and subsequent disability that in some cases may be permanent.

If you have any EHS related concerns or questions about ergonomics, please contact environment@mit.edu or call 617-452-3477. For Lincoln Lab employees, please contact LL EHS, safety@ll.mit.edu or call 781-981-0963.

Ergonomics and MSDs

The goal of ergonomics is to prevent injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) caused by sudden or sustained exposure to force, vibration, repetitive motion, and awkward posture. To create an ergonomically sound work environment, it is recommended to design workspaces to fit your physical capabilities and limitations.

Work-related MSDs are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2013, MSD cases accounted for 33% of all worker injury and illness cases.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons. Employees and students can be exposed to risk factors at work, such as:

  • lifting heavy items
  • bending
  • reaching overhead
  • pushing and pulling heavy loads
  • working in awkward body postures
  • performing repetitive tasks

Exposure to these known risk factors for MSDs increases a worker’s risk of injury. Work-related MSDs can be prevented by fitting a job to a person. It can help lessen muscle fatigue, increased productivity and reduce the severity of work-related MSDs. Common musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (wrist)
  • Tendinitis
  • Rotator cuff injuries (shoulder)
  • Epicondylitis (elbow)
  • Trigger finger
  • muscle strains
  • low back injuries

Online Ergonomic Self-Assessment

The Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work web course is available to the MIT community. This course provides best practices and guidance around ergonomics, safety hazards, and your wellbeing. In addition, the course contains a risk assessment for you to complete about your current work environment. As a result, based on the assessment, you will be provided with an action plan to address ergonomic concerns.

Please note, an office/lab ergonomic self-assessment and materials handling course will be available in the coming month. In the interim, please take the Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work.

Ergonomics for Working Remotely

Visit Working Remotely for additional EHS resources, guidance and tools for ensuring a healthy and safe remote work environment.

Using a Laptop

If you are using a laptop as your primary work set-up reivew the tips below or our “Ergonomic Tips for Working Remotely with a Laptop” 1-page guide.

Using a Hand-Held Device

Compact user-interfaces keep the devices small, but they also encourage fixed hand and neck postures as well as rapid repetitive thumb movement. When using your hand-held device:

  • Avoid using the device for more than 5 to 10 minutes at a time, and stretch and massage your hands during rests to encourage circulation
  • Write short messages: be concise, use abbreviations, enable word completion/prediction features
  • Respond to non-critical messages after you have returned to your computer, or rest your fingers by responding to messages with a phone call
  • Give your thumbs a rest by using other fingers for tasks like pressing controls and buttons, and navigating
  • To avoid neck strain, try to keep your head balanced neutrally over your shoulders
  • When possible, try to support your arms (e.g. on a desk, countertop, or pillows)
  • If you need to use your device for over an hour or two, attach an external keyboard if possible

Setting up your Computer Workstation at Home

Office Ergonomics

If you sit at a desk or work with your computer for hours, you are potentially at risk for musculoskeletal disorders. Proper office ergonomics can help you stay comfortable and safe at work. At your workstation, you should consider the following components.

 

Laboratory Ergonomics

Laboratory employees and students are at risk for repetitive motion injuries during routine laboratory procedures such as pipetting, working at microscopes, operating microtomes, and using cell counters. Repetitive motion injuries develop over time and occur when muscles and joints are stressed, tendons are inflamed, and nerves are pinched and blood flow is restricted. Working in awkward positions in laboratory fume hoods and biosafety cabinets can also present ergonomic problems.

EHS Ergonomic Consultation & Evaluation

The EHS Ergonomic Team provides consultation, via email or telephone, for those looking for some quick tips on workstation setups. If you have questions about your risk assessment from the Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work you may also consult with the team to validate that you’ve implemented action plan appropriately.  Contact ehs-ergo@mit.edu for a consultation.

If you would like an evaluation after reading and applying the information above and completing the online ergonomic self-assessment (Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work) course, you can submit a request via the EHS Ergonomic Evaluation website.  A member of the Ergonomics Team will reach out to you within a few business days.

During the current state of remote work at home, we can conduct evaluations virtually for remote work at home setups as much as possible. To conduct the evaluation the requestor must have a video camera so staff can see the setup. An alternative if you do not have the capability to video chat, the evaluator may request a photo of your work setup.

Request an Ergonomic Evaluation

Additional Resources

Stretch Break Resources

Community Wellness @ MIT Medical: Live Better in Your Body (at-home video)

Nancy Bellantoni, Live Better in Your Body instructor, has created an at-home video you can watch and follow along to at your convenience. Release tension using roller balls and blocks (or books and tennis balls). Learn more.

MIT Recreation

 

Spending your workday sitting at your computer, standing in a lab or lifting heavy objects, performing day-to-day movements and repetitive actions can lead to a number of physical issues, from persistent muscle aches, tendon inflammation, and subsequent disability that in some cases may be permanent.

If you have any EHS related concerns or questions about ergonomics, please contact environment@mit.edu or call 617-452-3477. For Lincoln Lab employees, please contact LL EHS, safety@ll.mit.edu or call 781-981-0963.

Ergonomics and MSDs

The goal of ergonomics is to prevent injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) caused by sudden or sustained exposure to force, vibration, repetitive motion, and awkward posture. To create an ergonomically sound work environment, it is recommended to design workspaces to fit your physical capabilities and limitations.

Work-related MSDs are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2013, MSD cases accounted for 33% of all worker injury and illness cases.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons. Employees and students can be exposed to risk factors at work, such as:

  • lifting heavy items
  • bending
  • reaching overhead
  • pushing and pulling heavy loads
  • working in awkward body postures
  • performing repetitive tasks

Exposure to these known risk factors for MSDs increases a worker’s risk of injury. Work-related MSDs can be prevented by fitting a job to a person. It can help lessen muscle fatigue, increased productivity and reduce the severity of work-related MSDs. Common musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (wrist)
  • Tendinitis
  • Rotator cuff injuries (shoulder)
  • Epicondylitis (elbow)
  • Trigger finger
  • muscle strains
  • low back injuries

Online Ergonomic Self-Assessment

The Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work web course is available to the MIT community. This course provides best practices and guidance around ergonomics, safety hazards, and your wellbeing. In addition, the course contains a risk assessment for you to complete about your current work environment. As a result, based on the assessment, you will be provided with an action plan to address ergonomic concerns.

Please note, an office/lab ergonomic self-assessment and materials handling course will be available in the coming month. In the interim, please take the Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work.

Ergonomics for Working Remotely

Visit Working Remotely for additional EHS resources, guidance and tools for ensuring a healthy and safe remote work environment.

Using a Laptop

If you are using a laptop as your primary work set-up reivew the tips below or our “Ergonomic Tips for Working Remotely with a Laptop” 1-page guide.

Using a Hand-Held Device

Compact user-interfaces keep the devices small, but they also encourage fixed hand and neck postures as well as rapid repetitive thumb movement. When using your hand-held device:

  • Avoid using the device for more than 5 to 10 minutes at a time, and stretch and massage your hands during rests to encourage circulation
  • Write short messages: be concise, use abbreviations, enable word completion/prediction features
  • Respond to non-critical messages after you have returned to your computer, or rest your fingers by responding to messages with a phone call
  • Give your thumbs a rest by using other fingers for tasks like pressing controls and buttons, and navigating
  • To avoid neck strain, try to keep your head balanced neutrally over your shoulders
  • When possible, try to support your arms (e.g. on a desk, countertop, or pillows)
  • If you need to use your device for over an hour or two, attach an external keyboard if possible

Setting up your Computer Workstation at Home

Office Ergonomics

If you sit at a desk or work with your computer for hours, you are potentially at risk for musculoskeletal disorders. Proper office ergonomics can help you stay comfortable and safe at work. At your workstation, you should consider the following components.

 

Laboratory Ergonomics

Laboratory employees and students are at risk for repetitive motion injuries during routine laboratory procedures such as pipetting, working at microscopes, operating microtomes, and using cell counters. Repetitive motion injuries develop over time and occur when muscles and joints are stressed, tendons are inflamed, and nerves are pinched and blood flow is restricted. Working in awkward positions in laboratory fume hoods and biosafety cabinets can also present ergonomic problems.

EHS Ergonomic Consultation & Evaluation

The EHS Ergonomic Team provides consultation, via email or telephone, for those looking for some quick tips on workstation setups. If you have questions about your risk assessment from the Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work you may also consult with the team to validate that you’ve implemented action plan appropriately.  Contact ehs-ergo@mit.edu for a consultation.

If you would like an evaluation after reading and applying the information above and completing the online ergonomic self-assessment (Ergonomic & Safety for Remote Work) course, you can submit a request via the EHS Ergonomic Evaluation website.  A member of the Ergonomics Team will reach out to you within a few business days.

During the current state of remote work at home, we can conduct evaluations virtually for remote work at home setups as much as possible. To conduct the evaluation the requestor must have a video camera so staff can see the setup. An alternative if you do not have the capability to video chat, the evaluator may request a photo of your work setup.

Request an Ergonomic Evaluation

Additional Resources

Stretch Break Resources

Community Wellness @ MIT Medical: Live Better in Your Body (at-home video)

Nancy Bellantoni, Live Better in Your Body instructor, has created an at-home video you can watch and follow along to at your convenience. Release tension using roller balls and blocks (or books and tennis balls). Learn more.

MIT Recreation