Ergonomics in mechanical exposures – variation is the key

Ergonomics is the study of the relationship between people and their work environments, which is very important to both health and safety.

Our body is made to move and to work with varied activities and loads – not for monotonous work over longer time periods. It is natural for the body to alternate between sitting, standing and walking during a day.

It is healthy to use our body and move, but if the load exceeds the body’s own tolerance limits because the load is too heavy or too repetitious, health problems can occur.

The line between physically acceptable and harmful loads varies from person to person. How well different people tolerate such exposures depends, among other things, on individually varying muscle strength and other physical conditions.

Manual handling of equipment, unfortunate working positions, repetitive movements and heavy physical work are examples of mechanical work environment exposures that occur in a number of workplaces. It is important to know that several individual operations, each of which is not heavy, can together and over time also lead to a total too high load. Musculoskeletal disorders can also be caused by an overload due to poor planning or organization of work, distribution of workloads etc.

Ergonomics: how we best can adapt work tasks, technique and work environment to the human body.

Mental strains can also affect the muscles and increase the effect of the physical load. Examples are time pressure, attention- and concentration demanding tasks, precision or interpersonal relationships.

A varied workload can strengthen both the physical and mental health, it is therefore important to organize and facilitate the work so this can be achieved.

Preventive measures:

  • Organize and plan the work so that you can achieve good and varied working positions. Avoid time pressure and monotonous work
  • Use suitable technical aids if possible. Make sure that the workplace and the working positions are adapted/facilitated to both the person and the work task
  • Take time for recovery breaks and micro-breaks
  • Job rotation and job expansion provide both variety of tasks and working positions
  • Avoid forward-bent and twisted working positions over time. Stand close to what you are working on/with
  • Avoid working for extended periods with your arms above shoulder height and below knee height
  • Avoid heavy manual lifting combined with rotation – use aids or be two persons when lifting
  • Avoid prolonged work with vibrating tools. Follow the exposure limit marking on the tool
  • Strength exercise of the muscles that are exposed at work increases our endurance limit and ability to function and has a good preventive effect in relation to the development of muscle- and skeletal disorders



  • Labor Inspection Norway
  • Statens Arbeidsmiljøinstitutt