Ergonomics Tips for the North Pole

Posted on by Julie Tisdale-Pardi, MA, and Katie Shahan, JD

Santa demonstrating safe and unsafe lifting techniques.

This holiday season we are checking in at the North Pole throughout December with some workplace safety and health advice for Santa and the elves to ensure they stay safe. In preparation for the big day, we are providing some tips to keep Santa and the elves safe while making, lifting, loading, and delivering all those presents! With proper ergonomic techniques, they will be in tiptop shape all season long.

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are injuries resulting from work tasks such as:

  • Lifting or pushing heavy or irregularly shaped objects (hoisting that bag of toys or moving those heavy boxes through the workshop will take its toll over time).
  • Maintaining an awkward posture such as prolonged or repetitive reaching above shoulder height, kneeling, squatting, leaning over a counter or twisting the torso while lifting (the elves work non-stop loading the sleigh with presents).
  • Performing the same or similar tasks repetitively (the elves make toy assembly line work look like fun, but those repetitive tasks can cause injuries if an ergonomics program is not followed).
  • Whole body or hand-arm vibration (that new rocking horse takes a lot of sanding).

Santa and the elves will want to make sure that the toy makers’ workbenches are at the proper height and that anti-fatigue mats are used when prolonged standing is required. Equipment to prevent awkward postures, like eyeglasses with magnification, can reduce bending at the neck. Tools should have ergonomic handles and if powered tools are required Santa should try to buy quiet to protect the elves’ hearing.

Like Santa, we at NIOSH hope everyone is on the nice list, but if you find yourself on the naughty list you know what that means – coal! The coal elves (Prep and Landing) have a difficult task of mining lumps of coal for your stocking. The NIOSH Mining Program has resources specifically tailored to keeping coal elves safe while filling orders for the naughty list. Ergomine is available to help Santa conduct ergonomics audits of his mine. It includes ergonomics audits for three types of mining operations; slip, trip, and fall hazard checklists; musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) risk factor evaluation forms; and a tool to document and track remedial actions to address identified deficiencies.

Transporting the toys, loading the sleigh, and delivering all those presents can cause back injury or other musculoskeletal disorders. Santa and the elves should use the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation (RNLE) for assessing manual lifting risks. NIOSH published a digital version of the RNLE applications manual (see related blog) and a mobile app to help users calculate the lifting index, the outcome risk metric of the RNLE.

If physical changes to the workstations cannot be made, exoskeletons may be considered for the lifting tasks. Care will need to be taken when selecting an exoskeleton for Santa and the elves.

With a little help from an ergonomics program, Santa and the elves can stay safe and healthy all year round. Stay tuned for more tips for Santa on flight safety and working at heights and in extreme climates.  Also see the recent blogs on delivery driver safety and temporary workers.

Julie Tisdale-Pardi, MA, is the NIOSH Science Blog Coordinator and a Health Communication Specialist in the NIOSH Communication and Research to Practice Office.

Katie Shahan, JD, is the NIOSH Social Media Manager and a Health Communication Specialist in the NIOSH Communication and Research to Practice Office.

Thank you to the NIOSH staff who contributed to this blog.

For more information

Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders 

Celebrating National Ergonomics Month 

All NIOSH ergonomics blogs

Posted on by Julie Tisdale-Pardi, MA, and Katie Shahan, JD

6 comments on “Ergonomics Tips for the North Pole”

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    This is an awesome post. It made my day. Thank you so much for putting it together.

    Thanks and have a great day! Happy holidays!


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Page last reviewed: December 19, 2022
Page last updated: December 19, 2022