Updated March 29, 2024

Ergonomics is the practice of fitting the job to the individual, which can help prevent work-related musculoskeletal injuries. Examples of musculoskeletal injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and low back pain. 

Environmental Health & Safety's (EH&S's) Ergonomics Program helps University departments/units and personnel identify risk factors that can contribute to the development of work-related musculoskeletal injuries and determine solutions to eliminate or reduce these risk factors. We offer guidance to University personnel with ergonomic questions and concerns.

Below are guidance documents, evaluation tools, and consultation referrals that UW units and personnel can use to better fit the job to the individual.

Risk factors

Risk factors for the development of musculoskeletal injuries include awkward posturesrepetitive tasks, and/or forceful exertions. These types of injuries are usually cumulative; they develop over time, rather than resulting from a single event.

Musculoskeletal injuries can be prevented by evaluating work tasks that involve these risk factors and finding solutions to better fit the job to the person. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website covers these risk factors as well as other contributing factors in greater detail, along with advice for how to reduce or limit these risk factors.

Ergonomic hazard evaluation tools

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) provides ergonomic hazard evaluation tools to help you:

  • Identify tasks that may increase the risk of injury
  • Prioritize your injury prevention efforts
  • Determine if a solution adequately fixed the hazard

Use the L&I Caution Zone Checklist and the L&I Hazard Zone Checklist to identify job tasks that require awkward postures; highly repetitive motion; repeated impact; heavy, frequent or awkward lifting; moderate to high hand-arm vibration; or high hand force that could cause sprains and strains.

If hazards are identified, make the job safer by reducing the time spent doing the tasks under the limit listed in the checklist.

Office ergonomics

Workplace safety in the office can be addressed by adhering to the ergonomic workstation design and furniture specifications. Additionally, workstation accessories must meet local ergonomic regulations or requirements.

There are important steps you can take to set up your workstation, computer and chair to increase your comfort and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries while working in an office setting.

Watch the Ergonomics Instructional Videos for detailed instructions on setting up your workstation.

Choosing furniture

University of Washington personnel who work in offices need to have a workstation that allows them to be productive, comfortable and not be susceptible to pain or injury. Slight adjustments may be all that is needed to improve an existing workstation for an individual. 

If you determine that a different or new component may be needed to correct deficiencies in your workstation, follow these steps:

  1. Review the following information for guidance and procedures in selecting the proper ergonomic furniture and equipment for your individual needs.
  2. Visit the UW Access Technology Center in Mary Gates Hall, Room 064B, on the Seattle campus to try out chairs and other workstation components. 
  • There may be no one in the Access Technology Center to assist you. However, you can log onto computers in the Access Technology Center to access vendor/product information and chair adjustment videos. 
  • Items in the Access Technology Center should be tagged with names of manufacturer, model and vendor.
  • Not all furniture and components listed below may be available at the Access Technology Center.

Construction and renovation project managers select furniture according to the UW Office and Administrative Ergonomic Furniture and Equipment Design Guidelines, which are based on published standards, current literature, and best practices within the ergonomics field.

If more information is needed or you want to request an ergonomic evaluation of your workstation, contact the EH&S Ergonomics Program.

Training and information

The following training courses and resources are available online:

Additional training for supervisors and employees on ergonomics awareness is available from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries on the L&I Ergonomics webpage.

Disability Services Office

For questions regarding disability or reasonable accommodation assistance, please contact the Disability Services Office at 206.543.6450, 206.543.6452 (TTY), by email at, or visit their website.

Workers' Compensation

Questions regarding employee work-related injuries or illness claims should be referred to UW Risk Services, Claim Services at or visit the Claim Services website.

Additional resources

EH&S has provided the list below for informational purposes only. The listing of a particular group or company is not an endorsement by the University of Washington.