Health and Safety      College of Science and Engineering (COSE)

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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 are repetitive motion injuries?

Repetitive motion injuries (RMI) related to ergonomics are musculoskeletal disorders that are injuries to the softtissues of the body: the muscles and tendons that connect muscles to bones; ligaments that connect bone to bone; nerves; arteries and veins; pretty much every part of your body that's not a bone or internal organ. Pain is the most common symptom of these injuries.


What parts of the body do RMIs affect?

RMIs affect the parts of your body that are prone to injury when demands on them go beyond what they can handle. Typically these injuries occur in the moving parts of the body like your neck, low back, shoulder, elbow, wrist, and knee.


What are some of the symptoms of RMIs?

RMIs have many different symptoms, many of which you may have experienced at one time or another. Please know that having one or more of these symptoms doesn't necessarily mean you have an injury. These include:

  • Discomfort
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Changes in skin color
  • Stiffness, tight muscles, or loss of flexibility in a joint
  • Unusual sensations: numbness, tingling, burning, heaviness, "pins and needles," or "falling asleep" of the hands or feet
  • Shooting or stabbing pains in arms or legs
  • Weakness or clumsiness in hands; dropping things

What are some of the consequences of a RMI?

Often these injuries start out small, as a little muscle pull or a slightly irritated tendon. It can become aggravated, especially if you keep doing the activity that caused the injury in the first place. The good news is that early treatment is often very simple and successful. Therefore, it's important for your own health to report symptoms as early as you can.


When should I report symptoms?

Of course, it wouldn't make sense to report all the little aches and pains you experience. But how do you know when symptoms are serious enough to need attention? Report your symptoms if...

  • Pain lasts more than 2 to 3 days in a row, is severe or worsening
  • Pain spreads or "travels" down an arm or leg
  • You experience numbness or tingling
  • You suffer from weakness or loss of strength
  • Symptoms keep you from sleeping at night
  • Symptoms get worse while working

When in doubt, it's better to report symptoms and be told there's nothing wrong than to wait too long. Discuss symptoms with your supervisor, medical professional, or with a campus EHOS representative at 415.338.1449.


What are some of the risk factors or activities involved?

Activities like those listed below performed for typically 4 or more hours per day can cause RMIs over time:

  • Awkward Postures (squatting, bending)
  • High Hand Force (pinching, grabbing)
  • Highly Repetitive Motion
  • Repeated Impact
  • Hand-Arm Vibration

What can I do to protect against RMIs?

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are injuries that accumulate over time. If typical work activities expose you to one or more risk factors known to cause injury, use caution regarding how these activities are performed and look for ways to minimize exposure by reducing the:

  • Duration (length of time without pause for rest)
  • Frequency (how often)
  • Intensity (amount of force)

Supervisors and employees should contact campus EHOS to arrange a workplace ergonomics assessment


Campus Ergonomics Resources

SFSU has established an Ergonomic Safety Program (ESP) team sponsored by the Office of Safety and Risk Management.

The ESP is part of the Comprehensive Liability Injury Management and Benefits (CLIMB) Program at San Francisco State University. The ESP is a proactive safety program that promotes ergonomics and healthy work style improvements to decrease the frequency and severity of computer-related, repetitive motion injuries (RMIs). The ESP program recognizes the contribution that all employees make towards the safety and well being of their peers. Thus the program was created with the philosophy that:

  • Employees contribute to a safe and healthy workplace and,
  • Employees are encouraged to participate in ergonomic education and training opportunities


More Information

SFSU Ergonomic Safety Program

Easy Ergonomics for Desktop Computer Users (Cal/OSHA Booklet)




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