CDC logoSafer Healthier People  CDC HomeCDC SearchCDC Health Topics A-Z
NIOSH - National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

NIOSH Safety and Health Topic:

Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders



NIOSH participated in the 8th Annual Applied Ergonomics Conference, held March 10–13 at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, FL.
External Link:


NIOSHTIC-2 search results on Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders
NIOSHTIC-2 is a searchable bibliographic database of occupational safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH.

Scientific Support from Epidemiologic Research

Musculoskeletal Disorders and Workplace Factors: A Critical Review of Epidemiologic Evidence for Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Neck, Upper Extremity, and Low Back
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-141 (1997)
A comprehensive compilation and review of epidemiologic research on the relation between work-related musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, upper extremity, and low back and exposure to physical factors at work. It includes a bibliography and tables summarizing the literature.

Ergonomics Programs and Interventions

Simple Solutions: Ergonomics for Construction Workers
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2007-122 (August 2007)
The solutions in this booklet are practical ideas to help reduce the risk of repetitive stress injury in common construction tasks. While some solutions may need the involvement of the building owner or general contractor, there are also many ideas that individual workers and supervisors can adopt.

Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2007-131 (April 2007)
This booklet is written for managers and supervisors in industries that involve the manual handling of containers. It offers suggestions to improve the handling of rectangular, square, and cylindrical containers, sacks, and bags.

Conference Proceedings: Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders for Children and Adolescents Working in Agriculture
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-119 (June 2004)
The purpose of this document is to provide a summary of a national conference that was held in Cincinnati, Ohio, May 6-7, 2002. The agricultural safety and health experts who attended the meeting identified specific topic areas regarding WMSDs among children and adolescents working in agriculture for which little or no research exists.

Easy Ergonomics: A Guide to Selecting Non-Powered Hand Tools
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-164 (September 2004)
This document presents an easy to use guideline for selecting or purchasing the best available ergonomically designed non-powered hand tools.

Elements of Ergonomics Programs: A Primer Based on Workplace Evaluations of Musculoskeletal Disorders
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-117 (1997)
This publication describes the basic elements of a workplace program aimed at preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. It includes a "toolbox," which is a collection of techniques, methods, reference materials, and sources for other information that can help in program development.

Simple Solutions: Ergonomics for Farm Workers
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2001-111 (2001)
En Español
This booklet describes how to make or order inexpensive new tools or to modify existing ones to reduce the risk of backaches and pains in the arms, shoulders, and hands of farm workers.

Controlling the Ergonomic Hazards of Wiring Tasks for Household Appliances (4 pages; 102K)
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 98-108 (December 1997)
this document in PDF PDF only 102 KB(4 pages)
This pamphlet presents a hierarchy of four methods for reducing workers' physical risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders. The methods described are low-insertion force terminals, pneumatic hand tools, manual terminal insertion tools, and properly designed pliers.

Ergonomic Interventions in the Building, Repair, and Dismantling of Ships
This site provides a collection of "easy fixes" to specific problems associated with diverse work processes within the shipyard industries. These interventions were implemented at various shipyards within the United States and Japan.

Ergonomics: Effective Workplace Practices and Programs
Individual transcripts of presentations from the 1997 Chicago Conference sponsored by NIOSH and OSHA. At the conference, over 1,000 attendees shared practical experiences in all aspects of workplace ergonomics programs. Dozens of presenters described real-world efforts aimed at preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Each conference session focused on a specific industry, including construction, textiles, warehousing, healthcare, manufacturing, etc., or an important ergonomics program element, such as successful employee involvement.

National Occupational Research Agenda for MSDs: Next Decade of Research
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2001-117 (January 2001)
this document in PDF PDF only 1590 KB (39 pages)
A research agenda developed by the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Musculoskeletal Team. Information was compiled from focus groups consisting of practitioners and researchers. The document is organized to reflect the four areas of the NORA Team agenda: Surveillance research agenda, etiologic and medical research agenda, intervention research agenda, and improving the research process. Appendices give a detailed listing of all focus group responses.

Ergonomic Interventions for the Soft Drink Beverage Delivery Industry
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 96-109 (1996)
this document in PDF PDF only 3129 KB (94 pages)
This publication presents the results of an ergonomic study to investigate, identify, and reduce risk factors that may cause musculoskeletal disease and injury in the soft drink beverage delivery industry.

A Strategy for Industrial Power Hand Tool Ergonomic Research - Design, Selection, Installation, and Use in Automotive Manufacturing
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 95-114 (August 1995)
this document in PDF PDF only 4,800 KB (57 pages)
Proceedings for a workshop that was held in January 1994. This paper discusses the many variables to take into consideration when purchasing or designing hand tools, such as physical stressors, work performance, engineering requirements, human operator capabilities, and work station or task factors. A table of tool types, stressful tool conditions, and possible resulting risk factors is included. The final chapter is a discussion of possible engineering design issues (e.g., posture, force, gloves, center of gravity, tool activation, reaction torque, balancers) for reducing physical risk factors.

Participatory Ergonomic Interventions in Meatpacking Plants
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 94-124 (1994)
This publication presents three case studies using intervention efforts to control ergonomic hazards found in the meatpacking industry.

Evaluating Risk Factors for Lifting Tasks

Applications Manual for the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 94-110
This publication includes the rationale and supporting criteria for the development of the revised NIOSH lifting equation and provides users with methods and examples for accurately applying the lifting equation to a variety of lifting tasks.

Back Belts and Back Injury

Summary of NIOSH Back Belt Studies (March 2002)

Abstract: The Effect of Wearing a Back Belt on Spine Kinematics During Asymmetric Lifting of Large and Small Boxes (Spine - August 15, 2001; Vol. 26 No. 16)
This laboratory study evaluated the effects of an elastic back belt on spine kinematics during asymmetric lifting of large and small boxes.

No Evidence that Back Belts Reduce Injury Seen in Landmark NIOSH Study of Retail Users, CDC Press Release, December 6, 2000

A Prospective Study of Back Belts for Prevention of Back Pain and Injury
(Journal of the American Medical Association - December 6, 2000; Vol. 284 No. 21)
In the largest study of its kind ever conducted, NIOSH found no evidence that back belts reduce back injury or back pain for retail workers who lift or move merchandise.

Back Belts - Do They Prevent Injury?
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 94-127
This non-technical publication describes what is known about the effectiveness of back belts and stresses the importance of an overall ergonomics program.

Workplace Use of Back Belts - Review and Recommendations
NIOSH Publication No. 94-122
This publication contains the report of a NIOSH Working Group that reviewed the scientific literature related to back belts. It includes summary conclusions and recommendations of the biomechanical, physiological, psychophysical, and epidemiologic studies published in the peer-reviewed literature.

Computer Keyboards & Video Display Terminals

Alternative Keyboards
NIOSH Publication No. 97-148
This non-technical publication provides basic information about common alternative keyboard designs and their effects on work posture.

NIOSH Publications on Video Display Terminals, Third Edition (141 pages; 6,180K)
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 99-135 (September 1999)
this document in PDF PDF only   6180 KB (141 pages)
Part I of this document consists of partial or full text of selected NIOSH documents on video display terminals (VDTs). This includes an overview of various occupational health issues, as well as information on topics relevant to VDT use, such as alternative keyboards, rest breaks, and glare. Part II contains a comprehensive bibliography of NIOSH documents on VDTs.


Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Hand-Arm Vibration
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 89-106
Examines the occupational health problems associated with the use of vibrating tools and provides criteria for reducing the risk of developing vibration-induced health problems.

Vibration Syndrome
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 83-110
Provides research that shows vibrating handtools can cause vibration syndrome, a condition also known as vibration white finger and as Raynaud's phenomenon of occupational origin. Vibration syndrome has adverse circulatory and neural effects in the fingers.

Related NIOSH Topic Pages

Agricultural Safety and Health
Agricultural Safety (Injury)
Construction Safety and Health
Ergonomics in Mining
Stress at Work
Women's Safety and Health Issues at Work

Other Resources

Safe Lifting and Movement of Nursing Home Residents
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2006-117 (February 2006)
this document in PDF PDF only (32 pages)
This guide is intended for nursing home owners, administrators, nurse managers, safety and health professionals, and workers who are interested in establishing a safe resident lifting program.

Worker Health Chartbook, 2004
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-146
This booklet's content is taken from the Worker Health Chartbook, 2000 (NIOSH Publication #2000-127), a comprehensive guide to surveillance data for work-related fatal and nonfatal injury and illness. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data regarding repeated trauma disorders within private industry (specifically carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis) are presented.

Cumulative Trauma Disorders in the Workplace Bibliography
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No.95-119 (1995)
Collects NIOSH research on CumulativeTrauma Disorders in the workplace.

NIOSH Alert: Preventing Knee Injuries and Disorders in Carpet Layers
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 90-104
Includes research and recommendations to help prevent knee injury.

NIOSH Research Projects: Musculoskeletal Disorders
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-109 (1997)
this document in PDF PDF only 75 KB (15 pages)

National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA)

  • National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Priority Research Area: Low Back Disorders
    Features general information about low back disorders, project list, more...
  • National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Priority Research Areas: Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Upper Extremities
    Features general information about musculoskeletal disorders, project list, more...

The information for both can be found in The Team Document starting on page 27 through page 32.

Selected Topics in Surface Electromyography for Use in the Occupational Setting: Expert Perspective
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 91-100
Basic instruction and information on the interpretations and applications of surface EMG.

Statement of Linda Rosenstock, M.D., M.P.H., Director, NIOSH Before the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Committee on Education and the Workforce U.S. House of Representatives May 21, 1997

Worker Protection: Private Sector Ergonomics Yield Positive Results
this document in PDF PDF only 2468 KB (141 pages)

Musculoskeletal Disorders and the Workplace: Low Back and Upper Extremities (2001)
(National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences)
External Link:

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders: A Review of the Evidence National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (1998) (National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences)
External Link:

Work-Related Laborers Health and Safety Fund of America—Occupational Safety and Health Division—Ergonomics and Construction on the Move
External Link:

Department of Defense: Ergonomics Working Group
External Link:

Page last updated: December 1, 2008
Page last reviewed: September 22, 2008
Content Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Division of Applied Research and Technology


Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders

Welder bending over, press operator, worker operating jackhammer

Adobe Acrobat:

The free Acrobat Reader is needed to open some of the files on this page.

Get Acrobat Reader

 |  NIOSH Search  | Site Index  | Topic List | Contact Us