The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) will assist employees on the necessary steps to prevent or reduce the severity of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The steps to be taken in the Ergonomics program include, but are not limited to, engineering controls, administrative controls, work practice controls, and the provision of personal protective equipment.


2.1  Environmental Health and Safety Manager is responsible for:

  • Scheduling worksite analysis with the employee upon request;
  • Conducting worksite analysis, including the collection of baseline information;
  • Compiling a written report with recommended changes; and
  • Providing training for employees covered under this policy.

2.2 Departments are responsible for:

  • Ensuring that concerned employees are allowed to obtain a worksite analysis;
  • If necessary, purchasing ergonomic furniture; and
  • Incurring the cost for personal protective equipment recommended by Environmental Health and Safety.

2.3 Employees are responsible for:

  • Utilizing the “Workstation Guidelines” in Appendix A as a guide for initial set-up of their workstation; and
  • Following any recommendations provided by Environmental Health and Safety while working at the workstation.


3.1 Known or Suspected Injury

Known or suspected musculoskeletal disorders shall be reported to the Department Manager/Supervisor. The employee reporting a MSD shall inform their supervisor of the known or suspected injury and complete a MBL Accident/Injury Report Form.  The completed form should be provided to Human Resources.

3.2  Worksite Analysis

Worksite analysis identifies problem jobs or job tasks and risk factors associated with them. This essential preliminary step helps employers determine what jobs and workstations are the source of the greatest problems.

A worksite analysis shall be triggered by one of the following:

  • Completion of an MBL Accident/Injury Report or injury follow-up; or
  • Receiving a request from a licensed medical professional. Upon obtaining a licensed medical professional's recommendation, please contact Environmental Health and Safety at 508-289-7424 or safety@mbl.edu to schedule a worksite assessment.


4.1 Engineering Controls

Engineering controls are the preferred method of controlling ergonomic stresses since the primary focus of ergonomic hazard abatement is to make the job fit the person, not force the person to fit the job. Environmental Health and Safety recommends that the “Workstation Guidelines” be used as a guide while working at the computer workstation.

The following engineering control principles need to be considered when designing a work station or recommending corrective measures:

  • Workstations shall be designed to accommodate the person who actually works at a given station and not for an average or typical employee;
  • Workstations shall be designed so that the station can be adjusted easily to accommodate the employee assigned to the station and the equipment used at the station shall be designed for that purpose;
  • The workstation shall also be sized to allow for the full range of movements required to perform assigned tasks;
  • Tasks performed by the employee in the performance of his/her responsibilities shall be designed to prevent extreme postures, repetitive motion, excessive force, and static work; and
  • Tools used in the performance of assigned tasks shall be designed to prevent or reduce chronic muscle contraction; awkward finger, hand, and arm positions; repetitive forceful motions; vibration; and excessive gripping, pinching, or pressing with the hand and fingers.

4.2 Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are changes in the way work in a job is assigned or scheduled that reduce the magnitude, frequency, or duration of exposure to ergonomic risk factors. Examples of administrative controls for MSD hazards include the following:

  • Rotate employees to different tasks. Note: When rotating an employee to a different task, the new task shall use a different group of muscles, tendons, and nerves. Reduce the number of repetitive motions;
  • Job task enlargement;
  • Alternative tasks; and
  • Employer-authorized changes in work pace.

4.3 Work Practice Controls

An effective program for ergonomic hazard prevention and control also includes procedures for safe and proper work practices that are understood and followed by managers, supervisors, and employees and include the following:

  • Proper work techniques;
  • Employee training and conditioning; and
  • Proper housekeeping.

4.4 Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment such as gloves, padding, clothing, or equipment shall be designed for the intended purpose. If needed, Environmental Health and Safety will recommended personal protective equipment. Every effort shall be made to resolve the problems using engineering and administrative controls.  The following guidelines should be used:

  • No personal protective equipment shall be purchased without first consulting the Environmental Health and Safety Manager.
  • No personal protective equipment shall be used by the employee without the employee first being trained in the equipment’s use and care.

Note: Braces, splints, and back belts are not considered personal protective equipment and when used, shall be at the direction and under the supervision of the employee’s treating physician.


Environmental Health and Safety will provide a review of individuals workstation upon request.  They will also facilitate training of employees with either in-person training or use of online training videos as needed or when requested. The curriculum of the training program shall, at a minimum, cover the following:

  • Awareness of the common MSDs and their signs and symptoms.
  • Review of engineering and administrative controls for workstation.

Appendix A - Workstation Guidelines 

Chairs Keyboard

Chair should have a strong five legged base.

Place the keyboard on a stable, level surface.

Adjust the height of your chair so your feet are flat on the floor or on a footrest with your knees bent.

Place the keyboard directly in front of you not at an angle or in a corner that requires twisting of your torso.

Thighs and hips should be supported by a well-padded seat and generally parallel to the floor.

Type with your arms hanging straight down from your shoulders, close to your sides with your elbows at about a 90-degree angle so your forearms are parallel to the floor.

Do not cross your legs for extended periods of time or sit on your feet.

Keep your shoulders relaxed not hunched and elbows close to the body.

Support the natural inward curve in the lumbar area (lower spine) with the chair's backrest.

Hold your wrists straight while typing. Do not bend or twist your wrists up, down or to either side.

The edge of the seat should not press against the back of the knees.

Do not overreach for distant keys with your fingers - move your entire hand.

Armrests, if provided, should be soft, allow your shoulders to relax and your elbows to stay close to your body.

Do not rest your wrists, hands, elbows or forearms on hard, sharp-edged surfaces such as the edge of your desk or keyboard. Use a padded wrist rest.

Use a chair with a backrest that is easily adjustable and able to support the back in a variety of seated postures.

Do not pound the keyboard. This excessive force creates shock waves that must be absorbed by your hands and arms.

Sit in one of the four reference postures: reclined sitting, upright sitting, declined sitting or standing to provide neutral positioning for the body.

Adjust your keyboard angle to fit your hands. If you have long fingers, you probably will be more comfortable keeping it flat or at a very low angle while with short fingers you may find it more comfortable to tilt the keyboard slightly more to make it easier to reach keys on the unner rows.

Mouse Monitor

Place the mouse close to your keyboard at the same height or slightly lower.

Set the height of the monitor slightly below eve level.

If you use your mouse often, move the keyboard slightly to the side so that you do not over-extend your arm to use your mouse.

Place the monitor at least 20 inches directly in front of you.

Do not rely only on your wrist to move the mouse. Keep your wrist straight and use your arm.

Position your screen to minimize reflected glare. Use glare screens when necessary.

Keep your arms close to your sides and your elbow bent about 90 degrees.

Keep your screen and filter screen clean of dust and fingerprints.

Keep your shoulders relaxed not hunched.

A qualified technician should evaluate screen flickering.

Substitute keystrokes for mousing tasks such as Ctrl+S to save, Ctrl+P to print.

Adjust monitor controls (brightness, contrast, etc.) for comfortable viewing.

Use a mouse pad with a wrist/palm rest to promote neutral wrist posture.

Place all document holders at the same distance as the monitor and close together to avoid constant changes in focus and excessive neck or back movement.

Avoid tightly gripping the mouse or pointing device to maintain control.

Monitors should not be farther than 35 degrees to the left or right.

If the keyboard tray/surface is not large enough to accommodate both the keyboard and mouse, try using a mouse platform positioned over the keyboard (this design allows the mouse to be used above the 10-key pad) or install a mouse tray next to the keyboard tray.

Rest your eyes periodically by focusing on objects farther away from the monitor (e.g. a clock on a wall 20 feet away).

 Computer Workstation Ergonomics

Person seated at desk in correct ergonomic posture
  1. Feet should rest flat on the floor or be supported by a footrest.
  2. Feet should be slightly forward of the knees.
  3. Thighs should be parallel to the floor.
  4. Hip back in chair with 1-2 inches between knees and chair.
  5. Lumbar contouring of the chair should be adjusted to support the lumbar area of the back.
  6. Chair (or work-surface) should be adjusted so the elbows are even with the home row level of the keyboard.
  7. Wrists should be kept in a straight and neutral position.  Wrists should not deviate more than 10 degrees side-to-side or 15 degrees upwards or downwards.
  8. Forearm-upper arm angle should be between 90-100 degrees.
  9. Arms should rest comfortably at your sides with the arms not extending more than 20 degrees away from the sides of your body and 25 degrees in front of your body.
  10. Shoulders should be relaxed, not hunched or bent upwards.
  11. The computer monitor should be adjusted so the top third of the screen is at eye level. Viewing distance to the screen should be about 20-28 inches.
  12. The head should be in a straight and neutral position over the spine. Your ears should be in line with your shoulders and hips.