U.S. Geological Survey Manual
Sample Local Ergonomics Standard Operating Procedures
Note: Department of the Interior (Department or DOI) and U.S. Geological Survey
(Bureau or USGS)
Local Ergonomics Standing Operating Procedure for_____________________________(Facility Name)
- Policy statement. Ergonomics is the study of work that
attempts to design the work environment to fit the employee’s physical
capabilities and limitations. The USGS is committed to preventing injuries
associated with ergonomic hazards. Through training, workplace evaluation,
and redesign this Bureau hopes to greatly reduce the number and severity
of musculo-skeletal injuries experienced in the workplace.
- Ergonomics. The science of studying the worker in the workplace. Ergonomics
involves applying the knowledge of human strengths and weaknesses to the design
of workplaces, jobs, tasks, tools, equipment and the environment.
- Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD’s). This includes a number of injuries to
muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, joints, bones, and supporting blood
vessels in the upper or lower extremities or back. Such injuries include back
injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, and Raynaud’s syndrome. These conditions are
caused by ergonomic hazards in the workplace such as awkward positioning,
repetition, force, mechanical compression, vibration and duration of operation.
MSD’s result from the cumulative effect of repeated traumas to a particular
part of the body. Cumulative trauma occurs when rest or overnight sleep fails
to completely heal these small “microtraumas” that carry over and adds to the
total effect on the body. Over time this can result in permanent damage or
In consultation with employees, they:
ergonomic hazards and the associated risks relating to poor design of tools, equipment,
work station, or work practices.
all employees with adequate equipment for the tasks they are performing.
employees information, instruction, and training on ergonomics and the signs
and symptoms of work-related musculosketal disorders so that they will
recognize ergonomic hazards and understand the importance of early intervention
in the prevention of these disorders.
and reinforce proper work techniques and use of mechanical assist devices or
specially designed tools.
the early reporting of symptoms or injuries related to cumulative or traumatic
stress (All recordableWMSD’s will be reported using the SMIS system).
medical intervention for individuals reporting a WMSD.
- Regional Safety Managers/Regional Ergonomics Advisor.
the Bureau ergonomics policy to locations in the field an assist them when
necessary in developing their own local programs.
as a regional advisor to supervisors and collateral duty safety officers to
assist them when necessary with evaluating work areas, interpreting those
evaluations, and making suggestions for improvements to work areas with
identified ergonomic hazards.
- Collateral Duty Safety Officers.
Assist management with the assessment of work areas that have been identified as
having ergonomic risk factors or have documented work-related musculoskeletal
in any ergonomic-related training made available to them so that they can
better advise management when ergonomic-related situations arise.
Collaborate with the Regional Safety Manager when problematic situations outside of their
scope of experience are encountered.
Recommend to management changes that should be made to the work environment to control or
eliminate the ergonomic risk factors.
Participate in any ergonomics training provided for them.
Use equipment provided for them properly, as instructed (no short cuts).
Employ proper work techniques such as proper lifting and using devices to assist in
Provide input to supervisors on workstation design to enhance their comfort when
performing repetitive or awkward tasks.
Report any on the job injuries that occur to their supervisor immediately.
- Identification of ergonomic hazards is essential to preventing WMSD’s. There are two basic
ways workplace evaluations can be accomplished. One is to be proactive and
identify ergonomic hazards while conducting the supervisory job hazard
analysis. The other is reactive and evaluate the work area once a complaint is
raised or an injury is reported. Of the two, obviously the first is preferable
because it identifies the potential hazards upfront and prevents the injury
from ever occurring.
experiencing discomfort related to their work must bring this issue to the
attention of their supervisor. In turn the supervisor will determine what steps
need to be taken to report the injury and to evaluate the work area. The
supervisor, in conjunction with the employee, will determine whether medical evaluation
is required to determine the extent of the injury and to evaluate duty status.
It is the responsibility of the agency to provide medical care for WRMD’s. The
actual work relatedness and payment of medical expenses will be determined by
the Department of Labor under the Federal Employees Compensation Act.
- Once duty status has been determined it is the supervisors responsibility to
accommodate the work restrictions (light duty) as outlined by the employees
physician. Every attempt should be made to keep the employee at work, if there
are tasks that they can accomplish within their physicians recommended
- Once the evaluation of a work area has occurred, it is the responsibility of the
supervisor to follow-up on the recommended changes to the work area.
- The primary means of controlling and preventing WMSD’s should be by eliminating the
hazard or process. If that is not possible, engineering/mechanical controls may
be employed such as using mechanical means to lift heavy objects. When that is
not feasible, you would use administrative controls such as job rotation to
eliminate the amount of time the person has to perform a particular task. For
instance, part of the shift performs one task such as grinding paint from a
piece of equipment in the morning while the other half of the shift stencils
shipment crates or completes administrative work. In the afternoon the groups
switch places. Finally, if all those methods are ineffective, personal
protective equipment (PPE) is a last resort. Examples of PPE would be the
wearing of hearing protection or anti-vibration gloves.
- Job Hazard Analysis. Supervisors must complete a job hazard analysis (JHA) of all
work processes in their area of responsibility. Things to look for when
considering ergonomic hazards would be tasks that require frequent bending and
twisting, awkward body positioning, constant, repetitive motion, or lifting of
heavy or unstable/awkward loads. Jobs that require the body to be outside of
it’s neutral position for long periods of time will lead to fatigue and
possible injury. Jobs where employees stand for long periods of time on hard
surfaces can be stressful. Likewise, sitting for long periods of time can also
create a tremendous stress on the body. Equipment or power tools that vibrate
can also cause injury to muscles, nerves, and connective tissues over time. It
is important to be able to provide a work area that maintains the body in a
relatively neutral position where either standing or sitting is important.
Individuals in administrative positions should be encouraged to take
mini-breaks to stretch and stand up every hour or so. This provides needed rest
which has been shown by research to greatly reduce the risk of injury.
- For unique or problematic situations, the Regional Safety Staff or the Bureau
Safety and Environmental Management Office can be contacted for assistance.
Telephone numbers for the Regional Safety Managers or Regional Safety Officers
can be obtained fro the USGS Web site. The Bureau Industrial Hygienist can be reached
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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S.
Geological Survey, Reston, VA, USA
Contact: APS, Office of Policy
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