From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Ergonomics- Silicon Graphics Inc.

Task Prior to Abatement (Description)

An ergonomic case study for workers at Silicon Graphics. Silicon Graphic Inc., headquartered in Mountain View, California, is a leading supplier of high-performance workstations, servers and super-computers. The company employs 3,800 workers. Workers had to perform different tasks from office work using computer workstations to assembly and manufacture. Office work required extensive use of the mouse. Assembly operation required considerable manual materials handling. Manufacturing tasks included lifting heavy computer systems and monitors into shipping boxes and lifting and carrying heavy totes of boards.

Task Prior to Abatement (Method Which Verified Hazard)

Increasing the company’s OSHA reportable upper limb disorders between 1991 and 1996.

Task Prior to Abatement (Method Which Identified Hazard)

  • Increasing medical cases of CTD-related injuries in the early 1990s.
  • Increasing medical costs to upper-limb disorders in the early 1990s to 70 percent of its medical costs.
  • Encouraging team lifting in the assembly process.
  • Increasing medical incidents of back injuries to 24 cases per year.

Ergonomic Risk Factor (Force)

Lifting and carrying heavy computer systems, monitors and totes of boards were required to perform the tasks.

Ergonomic Risk Factor (Posture)

Awkward postures were required to perform the tasks.

Ergonomic Solution (Administrative Controls)

  1. An outside consultant was hired to perform workstation evaluations, make recommendations, and offer computer-related accessories.
  2. Mandatory ergonomics training classes for high risk groups.
  3. Creating and distributing a 16-page ergonomics brochure.
  4. Automating ergonomics initiatives.
  5. Creating an ” ERGO Hotline ” to schedule ergonomics evaluations, report problems and seek information.
  6. Initiating an internal ergonomics website to provide information to workers “26” hours a day.
  7. Contracting with an ergonomics consultant in July of 1995 to perform the ergonomics evaluations, staff the ergonomics resource center and teach the office ergonomics class.
  8. Emphasizing risk assessment and identification, an accurate reporting system, and a thorough medical management and record-keeping system.
  9. Empowering the workers with the ergonomics knowledge to help themselves.
  10. Educating the employees via a brief program on the basic ergonomics fundamentals.
  11. Improving speech recognition and other software and hardware solutions for adaptive use of UNIX based computer systems.
  12. Implementing a back lift safety training class in 1993.

Ergonomic Solution (Engineering Controls)

  1. Purchasing new office sit-stand workstations.
  2. Adjusting the workstation surface height to accommodate each worker.
  3. Attaching a wider, adjustable keyboard and mouse platform to the standard desk in order to eliminate awkward reaches.
  4. Placing the computer boards and components on racks 15 inches off the floor in order to eliminate awkward lifting and twisting.
  5. Providing back supports on an individual basis.

Ergonomic Solution (Benefits)

  • All workers that perform the tasks now have reduced exposure to all kinds of CTDs.
  • Keeping up with workers’ need for ergonomics assistance in light of huge company growth.

Ergonomic Solution (Method Which Verified Effectiveness)

  • 41 percent drop in reportable upper-limb disorders from 1994 to 1995 which addressed about 70 percent of the company’s upper-limb reportable injuries.
  • Further 50 percent decrease in reportable CTD cases from 1995 to 1996.
  • Reportable cases of CTDs decreased to 25 through November of 1996 compared to 70 cases in 1994.


The key to Silicon Graphics’ successful ergonomics program was contributed to the support and funding of upper management.