Office Ergonomics - Using Ergonomics to Prevent Injury
Ergonomics may prevent musculoskeletal
injuries (such as back strain or
carpal tunnel syndrome) by reducing physical and
mental stress caused by the workstation setup. By focusing on the physical
setup of your workstation and the tools you use, you can reduce your chances of
injuries. It also is important to evaluate the work process, including job
organization, worker rotation, task variety, and demands for speed and quality.
intensely over long periods of time without taking breaks can greatly increase
your risk for musculoskeletal injuries. Taking regular breaks from your work
and doing stretching exercises may reduce the risk of repetitive motion
injuries. Try taking 3- to 5-minute breaks-or changing tasks-every 20 to 40
To improve your
- Arrange your work so you can sit or stand comfortably in a
position that does not put stress on any specific area of your body. You should
be able to keep your neck in a neutral position and minimize the need to look
up or to the sides continuously while you are working.
- Eliminate most movement from your waist. Keep the workstation and
workstation tools within reach without having to lean, bend, or twist at the
- Vary postures if possible.
- Take 10- to 15-second breaks frequently throughout your task. For
example, look away from your computer monitor, stand up, or stretch your arms.
Short breaks reduce eyestrain and buildup of muscle tension.
- Stretch your body by getting up out of your chair and stretching
your arms, shoulders, back, and legs. When you are sitting, shrug and relax
If you do similar work or activities at home, be sure to
apply these principles there as well to avoid the cumulative effect of
To improve your
workstation , choose workstation tools that fit your
personal physical and comfort needs, such as:
- A desk or work surface:
- Large enough to accommodate papers,
reference manuals, and other workstation tools, but arranged properly to access
- At a height that allows enough space for your knees and
thighs to comfortably fit under the desk.
- That is not shiny.
- A computer monitor that is:
- Clear and easy for you to see without
leaning forward or looking up or to one side.
- At a height where the top of the screen is at eye level or
within 15 degrees below eye level.
- Less than an arm's length away from you.
- Protective against eyestrain, which may lead to vision
problems and headaches. For example, glare guards are available either as part
of the monitor or to be placed over the monitor screen. Plasma screens also
have less glare than other monitors.
- A chair that maintains normal spinal curvature. A supportive
- Is adjustable, so that you can set the
height to rest your feet flat on the floor. Keep your feet supported on the
floor or on a footrest to reduce pressure on your lower back. Some people like
to sit in a slightly reclined position because it puts less stress on the back,
although this may increase stress on the shoulders and neck when you reach for
- Supports your lower back.
- Has adjustable armrests that allow your elbows to stay close
to your sides. If you are not comfortable with armrests, move them out of your
way. It is still important to keep your arms close to your sides even if you
choose not to use armrests.
- Has a breathable, padded seat.
- Rolls on five wheels for easy movement without
- A computer keyboard and keyboard tray that allow
comfortable typing or keying.
- Your keyboard should be at a height that
allows your elbows to be bent about 90 degrees and close to your
- There are many variations for keyboard design, including
split, curved, or rotated keyboards. Studies have not proved that these reduce
injuries. But some people find them to be more comfortable. If you notice hand,
arm, or neck discomfort, your employer may have different keyboard styles for
you to try. Different people find different styles work best for them.
- Many keyboards and keyboard trays have wrist supports to help
keep your wrists in a neutral, almost straight position. But wrist pads are
just there for brief rests. They are not meant to be used while you are typing.
But some people find they help even during keying. When you type, try raising
your wrists from the support so your wrists are in a neutral position. You may
want to alternate between resting your wrists on the supports and raising them
- You can adjust the tilt of the keyboard. Some people find it
more comfortable if the keyboard is flat or tilted slightly down at the top.
Try different tilt angles to see what is most comfortable for you.
- A computer mouse or pointing device that does not
require a lot of forearm movement or force, such as a trackball mouse or touch
pad, is more comfortable than a standard mouse for some people. Other types of
pointing devices are also available. See a picture of
proper hand and wrist position for mouse and trackball use for examples.
- A document holder that holds your papers level with your computer
monitor, so that as you look back and forth between paper and monitor, your
eyes do not need to continually refocus.
- A comfortable room temperature, a relatively quiet area, and
sufficient lighting without glare from office lights, sunlight, or the computer
- A telephone headset or speaker phone, so you avoid awkward
positions while talking and doing other tasks, such as typing.
location for any reference manuals that is close to the center of your
workstation, for easy access.