Ergonomics - Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the practice of adapting a job to the person so work can be performed without harmful strain or injury. Effective ergonomics reduces discomfort and injuries and increases job satisfaction and productivity.


What Happened to the L&I Ergonomics Rule?

Washington voters passed Initiative 841 on November 4, 2003 that repealed the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) ergonomics rule, effective December 4, 2003. As of that date there is no mandatory rule that governs ergonomics in Washington State. However, under WAC 296-800-110, enforced by L&I WISHA, there are regulatory requirements that employers are to protect employees against recognized hazards to ensure they are provided a safe and healthful work environment. Ergonomics is covered by this rule.

Additional ergonomics information including training is available at the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries Ergonomics web site. h


Who Is Responsible for Ergonomics at the UW?

As with all health and safety issues at the University, responsibility and accountability for assuring the employees' workplace meets regulatory requirements rests with each Vice Chancellor, Dean, Director, Chair and Supervisor. As noted in the University Handbook everyone with supervisory responsibility is expected to directly participate in assuring that safe working conditions are maintained.

University Health and Safety Committees may also be involved with ergonomics awareness at the organizational unit level.


What is the Supervisor's Role and Responsibility?

Supervisors are responsible for ensuring their employees are provided a safe and healthful work environment. This is accomplished by assessing employee work tasks to identify risks of incurring work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) and identifying methods to reduce or eliminate that potential.

In the event an employee incurs a job related WMSD injury the supervisor must complete the EH&S Incident / Accident / Quality Improvement Report form.


What is the Employee's Role?

Many work-related injuries or illnesses are preventable when you understand and apply basic ergonomic principles. Employees should be aware of ergonomic risks of incurring work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) and identifying risk factors and resources available at the UW. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, immediately notify your supervisor and contact your health care provider to report your discomfort.


Where Do You Go For Assistance?

  • EH&S

    There is no central funding to pay for ergonomic assessments or equipment. EH&S can provide guidance to individuals and organizational units on how they can begin to address their ergonomics issues. EH&S has traditionally provided and continues to provide ergonomic awareness assistance, specific training focused on back protection, and some limited technical assistance and consultation regarding ergonomic issues. For further information, contact EH&S at (206)-543-7388.

  • Ergonomics Consultants

    To purchase consulting services, such as a professional ergonomic evaluation of your workstation, you may need to obtain a requisition number from your department's authorized person before calling vendors. A list of ergonomic vendors / consultants who are available to provide ergonomics related consulting services to the University is provided here. Guidelines for working with a vendor are also provided.

  • Workers' Compensation

    Questions regarding employee work-related injuries or illness claims should be referred to the Workers' Compensation Program at 206-543-0183, by email at:, or visit the Office of Risk Management web site.

  • Disability and Reasonable Accommodation

    Questions regarding disability or reasonable accommodation assistance, please contact the Disability Services Office at 206-543-6450, 206-543-6452 (TTY), by email at:, or visit the Disability Services Office web site.


What Does an Ergonomic Assessment Include?

An ergonomic assessment usually consists of a discussion period with an ergonomic consultant during which some basic questions are asked about your job. The discussion is followed by an evaluation / observation of the activity of your job. Ergonomic vendors charge $50-$200 per hour and most assessments include a 30 minute to 2 hour on-site evaluation.

An ergonomic evaluation report is typically generated after the evaluation. The report will provide recommendations to reduce risks of incurring work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) and identifying risk factors that may be contributing to your discomfort. See Guidelines for Hiring Ergonomic Consultants for more information.


What Happens After an Ergonomic Assessment?

The ergonomic assessment report will be sent to the supervisor who requested the assessment. The supervisor is expected to share report outcomes with the employee and review the recommendations for feasibility of implementation. Less expensive alternatives such as work process changes, modifications to existing equipment or changes in configuration are often acceptable options too. See Guidelines for Hiring Ergonomic Consultants for more information.


Where Do I Purchase Ergonomic Equipment for my Workstation?

Many items are generally available through Facilities Services or Communication Technologies. See Guide to Ergonomics Office Products for more information. If you choose to purchase equipment through an ergonomic vendor, the consultant should be able to provide you with a written price quote that includes the price of the equipment, delivery costs, installation, and estimated delivery date.


Who Retains Ownership of Purchased Equipment?

The University retains ownership of equipment purchased. Faculty and staff members who keep items of personal equipment at University facilities should label those items to indicate personal ownership. For more information on use and maintenance of equipment, see UW Administrative Policy Statement 61.1.