Types of ergonomic hazards in the workplace

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) comprise around 33% of all employee workplace-related injuries in the UK each year. The most common cause of musculoskeletal disorders is poor office ergonomics that leaves employees working in uncomfortable conditions or encourages the regular use of poor posture. While these injuries are incredibly common amongst workers, it is possible to prevent MSDs from occurring by improving work-related ergonomic hazards.

Here, we cover the importance of an ergonomic office layout and design and the different types of ergonomic hazards in the workplace. We also discuss the injuries that could develop due to ergonomic hazards and the types of tasks that may encourage ergonomic injuries to occur.

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Read the importance of ensuring an office allows workers to work ergonomically.

Read the different types of ergonomic hazards in the office and how they can cause health risks.

Find out what common types of injuries happen in the workplace.

Why is it important for office products and the office layout to be ergonomic?

The importance of office ergonomics has been highlighted in a paper by Vink et al. (2006), which showed that workers’ productivity increased by 44% after voluntary ergonomic participation. Vink’s research is certainly not the only, or the first, paper to outline the benefits of introducing ergonomic solutions into the workplace. Ergonomic office products and office layout play a huge role in employee satisfaction and workplace efficiency.

Ergonomics for wellbeing

It will not come as a surprise that employees who work in uncomfortable/unpractical environments tend to experience heightened irritation, stress and frustration compared to those that work in more ergonomic environments. Implementing ergonomic solutions into your office could have fantastic outcomes for employee well-being, which in turn will lead to increase workplace morale.

Ergonomics for productivity

It is far easier to work for longer periods when you are comfortable. As a result of this, ergonomically enhanced offices are likely to emit higher productivity rates, as employees can work for longer stretches and not get distracted by discomfort or impractical workplace design.

Ergonomics for injury prevention

The main benefit of ergonomics in the workplace is preventing injuries that can cause employees large amounts of pain and discomfort. The most common type of injury caused by poor ergonomics is musculoskeletal disorders, which can affect blood vessels, muscles, bones, ligaments, and joints.

Ergonomics for posture

Another big cause for concern in a workplace that has poor ergonomics is the development of bad (or even dangerous) posture. In the worst cases, bad posture can lead to back pain, spinal dysfunction and even joint degeneration, amongst a list of other health concerns.

What are the different types of ergonomic hazards in the office?

Ergonomic hazards are physical factors in the environment that may cause injury or discomfort for an employee. Objects, environments and systems can all pose ergonomic hazards to employees that can result in bad posture, awkward movements and the potential development of musculoskeletal disorders.

Workstation design and height

The height and design of a workstation play a huge role in an employee’s ability to sit comfortably. If a workstation is too low, they may not have enough legroom, and they may find themselves stooping to look at screens or make notes. If a workstation is too high, employees may have to stretch awkwardly to do tasks and could strain their necks.


If office lighting is too dim, employees could risk straining their eyes as they attempt to read the paperwork. If the lighting is too bright, employees may become dazzled, which could lead to headaches or nausea.


Being exposed to loud noise each day can have detrimental effects on hearing in the long term. Although you may not notice these effects straight away, loud noise can damage the eardrum and may also cause migraines.

Badly placed keyboards and monitors

As with the height and design of a workstation, badly placed keyboards and monitors can lead to the unnecessary straining of necks, fingers and eyes. Monitors and keyboards should be easily accessible and placed in a comfortable position. A great way to adjust your monitor’s height is to invest in monitor arms that can be lowered or raised to your employees’ needs.

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Sedentary work

Long periods of sedentary work have been linked to health problems, including obesity and diabetes. Remaining sedentary for too long could also cause muscle weakness and stiffness, as muscles need to be used regularly to maintain their strength.

Slippery surfaces

Slips, trips and falls are one of the biggest causes of workplace-related injury in the UK. Slips can result in a variety of injuries, from a grazed knee to a broken bone. Slippery surfaces also place employees at risk of crashing into other employees, causing collisions that could be very dangerous.

Equipment layout and operation

In a cluttered workplace, employees may go to great lengths to reach a piece of equipment. If equipment is not laid out in an accessible way, this could mean stretching awkwardly or putting themselves into dangerous positions to get the equipment that they need. You can make equipment easier to access by using CPU trolleys to mobilise the placement of computers.

Messy cables

If cables are left in a messy state on the floor, they can become a trip hazard. It is easy for employees to catch their feet in tangled cables and fall over, causing potential injury. If cables are a hazard in your office, you could keep them under control with the help of cable trays.

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Inadequate task chairs

Task chairs are one of the most important pieces of office equipment that you should optimise for ergonomics. In an office, employees will spend most of their time in their chairs, so any discomfort or awkwardness in its design could contribute to serious injury.

Read our full guide to preventing ergonomic hazards in the office here.

What are the different types of ergonomic hazards in the office?

Repetitive strain injury

Repetitive strain injury is caused by consistently sitting in the same unnatural position or constantly straining throughout the day. It is widely associated with wrist and hand pain caused by typing but can affect many other body areas. Repetitive strain injuries appear in nerves and tendons and can become very painful over time.

Back and neck pain

Back and neck pain is the most complained about injuries that office workers experience. Back and neck pain can be caused by disc degeneration, excess pressure on the spine, sitting in a slumped position (causing nerve constriction) and the general effects of bad posture.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common musculoskeletal disorder that causes pain, numbness and a tingling sensation in the hand/arm, Carpal Tunnel syndrome is mostly caused by incorrect mouse or keyboard placement. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be incredibly painful and can lead to long-term difficulties.

What kind of repetitive tasks are your employees performing?

The requirement for employees to carry out repetitive tasks is a huge part of the problem that causes many employees to suffer from work-related injuries. Even if workplace equipment is set up correctly and optimised for good ergonomics, not taking breaks from repetitive tasks is a big cause of repetitive strain injury. You could consider many office tasks to be repetitive:

  • Harsh typing
  • Sitting in bad posture for long periods of time
  • Looking at an awkwardly placed screen for long periods
  • Staying in the same position for long periods
  • Working without a break

Frequently asked questions

How do you treat a stiff hand from typing?

There are plenty of hand and finger exercises that could help you to treat a stiff hand. Stretching is a great way to increase your range of motion and feel some pain relief.

What is an ergonomic mouse?

An ergonomic mouse is a computer mouse that is specially designed for maximum comfort and correct hand position. Ergonomic mice will fit perfectly into your hand and will be smooth to hold and moulded to comfortably fit your hand.

How do you identify a hazard?

A hazard is any interaction between an employee and a workplace item/system/routine that may cause harm or injury.

A hazard is any interaction between an employee and a workplace item/system/routine that may cause harm or injury.

Poor ventilation can result in little oxygen, which means employees could suffer from shortness of breath, headaches and fatigue. Poor ventilation in a workplace is ultimately hazardous to employee health and well-being.

What is an ergonomic keyboard?

What is the meaning of an ergonomic hazard?