This cross-sectional study aimed to identify the prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms and ergonomic risks in female sewing machine operators at a textile company. The study sample comprised all female sewing machine operators in the company. The sample included 283 sewing machine operators. Data were collected through the use of the adapted Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire and by direct observations via the rapid upper limb assessment (RULA) to determine ergonomic risks. RULA is a validated tool for assessment of ergonomic risks. The mean age of the women was 30.2 (SD: 8.4) and the mean number of years of employment was 13.4 (SD: 5.5). The highest prevalence rates for the women's musculoskeletal symptoms were in the trunk (62.5%), neck (50.5%), and shoulder (50.2%). Of the women, 65% had experienced musculoskeletal pain or discomfort over the last 6 months. Pain intensity of these symptoms was assessed with a visual analogue scale. The average pain intensity of the women was found to be 3.5 (SD: 2.8). Results of the RULA scores were found to be quite high. There were no employees who received RULA scores of 1-2, which indicates acceptable postures (all scores >5). The final RULA scores of 6.9 indicate that the participants' postures at their work stations need to be investigated immediately. Relevance to industry: This study based on the RULA method allowed to perform a rapid and quite correct evaluation tolls for SMOs. For this research population, the research findings provided fundamental data on the prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms and ergonomic risks among Turkish female SMOs. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.