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Are ergonomic assessments helpful?

What is ergonomics?

Ergonomics is essentially the science that looks into how spaces and systems are designed for the people that use them. Commonly the working environments is subject to all sorts of ergonomic assessments in an attempt to reduce injury. Improve health and safety. But as a recent article has suggested it appears none of these interventions are supported by hard scientific research.

The evidence?

Placebo may be just as effective as ergonomic interventions overall. Desk adjustment and chairs may have no effect on reducing shoulder or neck injuries. There is no evidence to support whether training and ergonomic interventions have any benefit. In fact the British Medical journal recently published a review which showed no benefit for such interventions.

So why have an ergonomic assessment?

Yes why? The number of work reported incidents or injuries appears to be on the increase. So the huge increase in ergonomic intervention over the last 15 years has not managed to have a positive effect on musculoskeletal pain. In fact it could be a argued that it is fuelling the problem rather than helping it.

So what can be done?

You really need to look elsewhere for the causes of such pain or injury. Describing work related pain as an injury is also dubious. Neck or shoulder pain associated with working at desk, is in most cases unlikely to be due to injury. Association is not causation. Other factors such as work related stress or anxiety, lack of sleep and exercise are much greater influencers. Does it make sense that sitting at a desk and typing injures your neck?!


Appears to have far more beneficial effect on musculoskeletal pain then any ergonomic intervention. After all we are designed to move!

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