What is Ergonomics?

The literal translation of the word ergonomics is “the study of work”. More specifically, ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population. Ergonomics is an important consideration for all personnel at WCM, regardless of whether they work in offices, laboratories, clinical spaces, or other areas where injury can occur.

An optimal ergonomic setup limits repetitive motion, overexertion, contact stress, and awkward positioning or twisting. Proper ergonomic conditions can both increase work productivity and satisfaction, as well as prevent musculoskeletal injuries to workers. Poor ergonomic conditions can be a problem in many types of work including administrative, clinical and laboratory jobs.

There are many ways to address ergonomics in your workstation. As every person is different, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to ergonomics. Therefore, the best way to attend to ergonomics issues is to schedule an ergonomics evaluation with EHS. During this assessment, a member of the EHS staff will spend approximately 20-30 minutes with you in your workstation determining if there are any ergonomic risk factors present, as well as the best ways to address those factors.

Remember that ergonomic evaluations are suggestions. You are not mandated to follow EHS recommendations for ergonomics, and the resources in this webpage contain information that you may choose to use to help set up your workstation. However, this information can be helpful to you in setting up your work environment.

Schedule an Ergonomics Evaluation

If you are having issues with your workstation setup, or simply would like to optimize your work setup, click above to schedule an ergonomics evaluation.

Workforce Health and Safety

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort due to your work setup, you should visit Workforce Health and Safety. Click the link above for more information.

ADA Reasonable Accommodation Request

The ADA Reasonable Accommodation Request is a collaborative effort between Cigna, you, the Employee Relations Office, and your department to discuss the need for accommodation, as well as identify possible accommodation solutions. Employees with a documented medical need may qualify for an ADA Reasonable Accommodation Request.

If you have been diagnosed by a physician as requiring additional ergonomics resources for your workstation, contact Human Resources for an ADA Reasonable Accommodation Request by clicking the above link.

Additional Resources

Office Work Tips

If you spend time working in an office, here is some helpful information.

Laboratory Work Tips

If you spend time working in a laboratory, here is some helpful information.

Clinical Work Tips

If you work in clinical or patient care settings, here is some helpful information.

Remote Work Tips

Animal Care Work Tips

If you are a member of the WCM RARC staff or are involved in animal care, here is some helpful information.

Material Handling Work Tips

If your job tasks involve material handling or manual equipment work, here is some helpful information.


What is Ergonomics?

The literal translation of the word ergonomics is “the study of work”More specifically, it refers to the most effective way to design the work area and conduct certain job tasks, how those job tasks can lead to injury if performed improperly, and how to prevent injuries due to overexertion or repetitive motion in the workplace.

Who is affected by Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is an issue that affects all workers, regardless of whether they work in an office, laboratory, clinical space, or in a position where physical manual handling is performed. All workers are subject to injuries resulting from overexertion, awkward positioning, or repetitive motion. The aim of the Weill Cornell Medicine EHS Ergonomics Program is to reduce the number of injuries related to ergonomics for all members of the campus community.

What kinds of injuries are related to Ergonomics?

Ergonomics-related injuries can result in Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). MSDs can occur in many different locations in your body but primarily occur in nerves, tendons, joints, ligaments, or spinal discs. Injuries to these locations often are the result of small cumulative incidents or repetitive motions to those areas. Some of these are specific to certain areas and symptoms, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, while others, such as low back pain, are more general and can have a number of different causes and symptoms.

What are the major Ergonomic Risk Factors?

Tasks that involve these activities pose an increased risk of developing a Musculoskeletal Disorder:

  • Repetitive motion
  • Forceful exertion
  • Awkward positions or movements
  • Contact stress
  • Application of force
  • Vibration
  • Temperature extremes

The risk of injury from these risk factors is not always readily apparent, but it is always present.

How do I know if I am having issues related to Ergonomics?

Ergonomic issues can manifest themselves in a variety of ways. If you are experiencing generalized pain in any of these areas, you may have ergonomic issues and should schedule an ergonomic assessment:

  • Wrists
  • Elbows
  • Knees
  • Back
  • Neck

If you are experiencing any of the following issues, you should be evaluated by Workforce Health and Safety, as they may be indicative of more serious issues:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Loss of strength or coordination
  • Sprain or severe strain

How does an Ergonomics evaluation work?

If you schedule an ergonomics evaluation, a member of the EHS team will come by to evaluate your workstation. EHS will look at your chair, equipment (e.g., keyboard or monitor if you’re working in an office), and other aspects of your work tasks to determine if and where any ergonomic risk factors are present. The EHS staff member performing the evaluation would observe your work tasks and will make adjustments, if applicable, where they see fit.

After the assessment, the evaluator will provide tips on how to work in ways that minimize risk factors and possibly help alleviate any pain or discomfort you might be experiencing. If your issues relate to the equipment being used, EHS can provide recommendations for ergonomic equipment as well.

How can I request an Ergonomics evaluation?

Ergonomics evaluations can be scheduled via the ServiceNow system. Simply create a ticket requesting an ergonomics evaluation, and a member of the EHS staff will contact you to schedule the evaluation. You can create a ServiceNow ticket here.

What if I want to perform my own evaluation?

The EHS ergonomics website contains checklists specifically designed for self-evaluation of your office or laboratory workstation. These checklists contain basic tips on how to optimize your workstation to minimize risk factors and reduce the chance of an ergonomics injury. These checklists are only a guide, and are not designed to be a substitution for the more thorough EHS ergonomics evaluation.

What does it mean when equipment says ‘ergonomic’?

Many pieces of office or laboratory equipment advertise themselves as ‘ergonomic’. Typically, this means that they are designed with regard to optimal ergonomic use. However, as there is no standard for what products can be labeled as ‘ergonomic’, this can mean many different things. EHS can help advise as to the best equipment to use in your area.

What should I look for in a new chair?

As many office workers are seated for much of the day, it is important that they are using proper chairs with adjustable features to maximize comfort and support. Office chairs come with all sorts of adjustable features designed for ergonomic optimization. If you are looking for a new office chair, be sure to obtain one with adjustable height, seat pan depth, lumbar support, armrest height, and a lockable back to ensure you sit upright. These can increase comfort and reduce the risk of injury from sitting all day. Many chair manufacturers provide manuals or instructional videos on how to properly adjust the chair, so be sure to seek those out if and when you obtain a new office chair.

Am I required to implement ergonomic changes from my EHS evaluation?

EHS ergonomic evaluations are only recommendations and are not binding by any means. You may change your workstation as you see fit, provided you are in compliance with laboratory safety, fire safety, and other safety policies and regulations. Remember that it is a good idea to use the tools provided to you to help guide you in optimizing your workstation.

How can I obtain Ergonomic furniture and equipment?

Most ergonomic equipment is obtained through your department’s purchasing personnel. W.B. Mason (WCM’s office supply provider) has ergonomic equipment for computers, and many laboratory suppliers carry ergonomic equipment as well.

The purchasing of certain ergonomic equipment, such as standing desks, may be beyond the realm of your department’s purchasing personnel. If you have a legitimate medical need as diagnosed by a doctor for this equipment, you should file an ADA Reasonable Accommodation Request through Human Resources. A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment to help a person with a disability perform the essential functions of a job. The request is a collaborative effort between Cigna, you, your department, and the Employee Relations Office to discuss the need for an accommodation, as well as identify possible accommodation solutions. It does not guarantee specific equipment, but rather allows for you to have the necessary equipment to do your job effectively. You can find more information on Disability Accommodation and filing of ADA Accommodation Requests through Human Resources here.

Are back belts or braces effective in preventing back injuries?

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) there is no scientific evidence that either supports or refutes the effectiveness of back belts or braces in preventing injuries. However, NIOSH does not recommend the use of back belts or braces by individuals who do not have a history of back injuries. Back belts or braces may in fact give the user a false sense of security that may result in lifting a weight that is beyond his or her capability.

Contact Us

Go to the staff directory for individual contacts within EHS. You may also use the Weill Cornell Medicine online directory to search for faculty and staff.

Create an EHS Incident


Weill Cornell Medicine Environmental Health and Safety 402 East 67th Street
Room LA-0020
New York, NY 10065 Phone: (646) 962-7233 Fax: (646) 962-0288