Ergonomics & Productivity

A study on the relationship between ergonomic work environments and productivity from a broad cross-section across North America found that absenteeism fell from 4% to 1% after workstation design changes were implemented; and employee productivity was subjectively judged as “much improved”. Blue Cross Blue Shield found that after implementing ergonomic designs in employee workstations, there was a 4.4% improvement in productivity. A comprehensive ergonomics program at Johns Hopkins Hospital resulted in an 80% reduction in MSDs over a 6-year period. Intel reported a 72% reduction in MSDs over a 4-year period after implementing an ergonomics program. One high-tech manufacturer had a 5% improvement in productivity using ergonomic improvements in the employees’ workstations. This increased productivity resulted in a net reduction in staff. Taking into consideration inflation, taxes and cost of invested capital, the difference between ergonomic and non-ergonomic furnishings for a first-time purchaser would be recovered in less than 8 months.

Imaging department managers should consider ergonomic design when purchasing new equipment. It may also be possible to modify existing equipment to make it more ergonomic.

Important equipment design features to consider:

Ultrasound equipment

  • Adjustable monitors and keyboards
  • Keyboard that adjusts separately from the monitor
  • Appropriate transducer width to eliminate “pinch grip” or extended reach
  • Proper transducer balance
  • Lightweight cables

Exam tables

  • Height adjustable from 22″ to 44″
  • Width 24-27″, length 65-80″
  • Mattress thickness at least 2″
  • Electric height control with foot pedals
  • IV pole and oxygen canister holders
  • Trendelenberg capability
  • Fully retractable side rails
  • Removable/retractable stirrups for OB-GYN exams
  • Drop-out section for cardiac work
  • Foot controls
  • Easily moveable with brakes


  • Height adjustable
  • Textured foot rests
  • Adjustable seat pan
  • Lumbar support
  • Foam seat and back
  • Saddle-type seats encourage neutral spine postures
  • Sit-stand stools are available for those who prefer to stand while scanning and should offer 10 different positions and have a 15-degree tilt

Patient scheduling should be managed so that a variety of exams are scheduled throughout the day, allowing sonographers to use different postures and scanning techniques during the workday.

A separate monitor should be provided for patient viewing so that the sonographer is not forced into constrained postures by sharing the monitor with the patient.

When staffing and space permit, one exam room can be set up specifically for each individual sonographer.