Setting up an Ergonomically Sound Computer Work Station
Ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of workers. Musculoskeletal disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tenosynovitis, tension neck syndrome and low back pain, are the problem and ergonomics is a solution.
- Long hours at a poorly designed computer workstation can cause pains in the neck and back, shoulders, lower extremities, arms, wrists, hands, eyestrain, and a general feeling of tension and irritability.
- Disabling accidents can occur within the office as a result of strain and overexertion.
Computer workstations should be designed to be adjustable to the individual whether it is in an office space or a warehouse or in the field in order to avoid strain.
The following guidelines can be taught to employees, re-enforced by supervisors, and implemented through purchasing programs that give guidelines and authorized funds to buy adjustable desks, chairs and monitors.
- The proper height for a computer work surface is about 3 or 4 inches lower than the average writing desk.
- If the employee’s work surface is not height adjustable have the employee raise his or her chair and use a footrest for proper support.
- The work surface should be positioned so that the employee’s forearms are parallel to the floor.
- The employee’s elbows should make an angle of between 90 and 110 degrees.
- The work surface should be positioned so that the employee’s forearms are supported a minimum of 6 inches.
- The work surface should be positioned so that the employee’s wrists can be straight and neutral.
- Wrists bent in any direction (up, down, left, or right) may lead to discomfort and eventually injury.
- Adjust chair height so that the worker’s forearms are parallel to the floor. Both feet should be flat on the floor or on a footrest with thighs parallel to the floor.
- Adjust the back support so that the curve of the back of the seat is in the curve of the lower back. Use a towel or a lumbar pad if the chair does not provide adequate support.
- Adjust the chair’s backrest for seat-pan clearance. The employee should be able to place 2 or 3 fingers between the back of his or her knees and the front edge of the seat.
- Place the monitor directly in front of the employee. Don’t position it where the employee will have to twist his or her neck to see it.
- Position the monitor so that the top row of characters on the screen is at or slightly below eye level.
- If the employee wears bifocals or trifocals, a lower position is required depending on his or her lenses.
- The monitor should be 18 to 28 inches from the employee’s eyes (about an arm’s length away).
NIOSH Safety and Health Topic: Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders
OSHA Effective Ergonomics: Strategy for Success
OSHA eTool: Computer Workstations
OSHA Computer Workstations Evaluation Checklist
OSHA Computer Workstations Purchasing Guide Checklist
OSHA Safety and Health Topics: Computer Workstations
Safe Lifting and Stretching Checklist
Safe Workstation Checklist