Assessing Total Job Demands … An Ergonomics Approach


Ergonomics is the “scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theoretical principles, data and methods to design in order to optimise human wellbeing and overall system performance”


Ergonomics should be an integral part of effective risk control. ‘People’ are an organisation’s greatest investment but often come last in design, engineering, and product considerations. Good Ergonomics is Good Business, Bad Ergonomics costs time and money and is often a cause of workplace injuries.




Work Matters


‘Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.’ (Theodore Roosevelt 1903)


‘Work is generally good for physical and mental health and well-being’ (Waddell and Burton 2006)


  • Work is a social determinant of health (Dame Carol Black)
  • Being off work for long periods is likely to make a person’s health problems worse
  • Good evidence that worklessness is associated with poor health outcomes / morbidity



















Work Related

Any mental or physical illness or disability that is caused, or made worse, by work and/or that impacts on work ability, WHO

Burton 2008 adopts the term ‘work relevant’, a wider view which avoids imputation of cause.


Both Musculoskeletal Diseases (MSD’s) and common mental health problems increasingly recognised as multifactoral, contributing factors include both work and non work elements


Rehabilitation Ergonomics


Ergonomics enhances the functional capacity of people/workers by optimising the fit between the person/workers and object, process, facility, environment, etc.

Rehabilitation and ergonomics could be said to be parallel approaches with identical goals.


Ergonomics can be the enabler that bridges the gap between reduced functional capacity and task demands














Good rehabilitation- retention


  • Neither biomedical or ergonomics interventions alone offer optimal solution. It requires a holistic approach.
  • Take into account biopsychosocial model (Occupational flags model and WHO – International Classification of Functioning “ICF”, Disability and Health )
  • Rehabilitation should be focused on job role
  • Screening for yellow/blue flags
  • Person centred approach- individualised
  • Identify obstacles to recovery and barriers to RTW(Return To Work)



Good practice!


  • Early access to assessment/treatment to maintain work capacity
  • Clinical assessment- screening for red flags
  • Provision of reassurance, focus on capabilities


  • If necessary screen for yellow flags/blue flags
  • Sustaining work or RTW may involve flexible and interactive approach
  • Management of these patients should focus on reducing obstacles to recovery and RTW
  • Interventions specifically addressing obstacles enhance positive vocational outcomes
  • High prevalence of MSD’s contribute to work instability, sickness absence and work loss
  • Biomedical and ergonomics alone not optimal solution
  • Evidence for multimodal interventions based on biopsychosocial model
  • Several stakeholders, clear communication and coordination
  • Effective management must be proactive
  • Early intervention/early reporting
  • Identify work instability early stage
  • Proactive and positive management of physical and mental health
  • Result- retention, reduced sickness absence, reduced accident rate, reduced staff turnover, improved morale, enhanced performance, profitability.