Fact Sheet

Ergonomics

Ergonomics is defined as the study of workplace equipment design or how to arrange and design devices, machines, or workspace so that people and things interact safely and most efficiently. Ergonomics is also called human-factors analysis or human-factors engineering. Ergonomic design facilitates harmony between the person and person's work environment by addressing individual needs and characteristics, and by positioning the body so there is less stress and strain on it while performing required tasks. When adjusting office furnishings and equipment, focus on the optimal "fit" between work environment and individual work style.

Since a poorly-designed workstation can slow staff down, increase their stress, and contribute to chronic conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, it is important each person organizes workspace to keep twists, turns and uncomfortable movements to an absolute minimum. Be sure that they have enough desk space to comfortably accommodate the materials and equipment that are part of their jobs; i.e., books, papers, calculators, and computers, and keep the items they use most frequently use closer to them.

Failure to pay attention to ergonomic issues can result in a wide array of workplace injuries, some permanently debilitating. Examples of injuries include:

Workstations

Guidelines for Workstations

The body should be in the following position when using a computer:

The height of the work surface is an important aspect of a good ergonomic workstation. The computer work surface should adhere to the following guidelines:

Guidelines for Chair Adjustment

Position the computer monitor according to these guidelines:

Lifting and Stretching

Although a typical office job may not involve lifting large or especially heavy objects, it's important that workers follow the principles of safe lifting. Small, light loads (i.e., stacks of files, boxes of computer paper, books) can wreak havoc on their backs, necks, and shoulders if they use their bodies incorrectly when they lift them. Backs are especially vulnerable; most back injuries result from improper lifting.

Posture

Posture affects which muscle groups are active during physical activity. Awkward postures can make work tasks more physically demanding by increasing the exertion required from smaller muscle groups and preventing the stronger, larger muscle groups from working at maximum efficiency. The increased exertion from the weaker, smaller muscle groups impairs blood flow and increases the rate of fatigue.

Encourage a midrange, comfortable posture by ensuring that materials, tools, and equipment for all work activities (excluding lifting tasks) are kept in the "general safety zone" (between the hips and shoulders and close to the body). Lifting tasks should be performed within the ?lifting safety zone? (between the knuckles and mid-chest and close to the body). Recovery periods (i.e., muscle-relaxation breaks) can help prevent the accumulation of fatigue and injury to muscles and their associated structures. Try to break up work with frequent, short recovery periods. Even recovery periods as short as a few seconds on a regular basis are helpful.

Modifying work practices

Pay close attention to how the work is being performed. Our bodies are stronger, more efficient, and less injury prone when we work in midrange postures. Maintaining midrange working postures simply means sitting or standing upright and not bending the joints into extreme positions. This can be done by trying to keep the neck, back, arms, and wrists within a range of neutral positions. Employees should be encouraged to be comfortable, to change positions, and to stretch when working.

Guidelines for Safe Lifting

Lifting From a Seated Position

Resources

Creating a Healthy Computer Workstation Environment
See OSHA e-tool

Easy Ergonomics

FEOSH — Department of Energy

ISO 9241, Ergonomics Requirements for Office work with Visual Display Terminals (VDTs): Part 5: Workstation Layout and Postural Requirements. International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, Switzerland

Office of Health and Safety, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Safe Lifting and Stretching Checklist

Safe Workstation Checklist

Lifting and Carrying Tips for Employees and Volunteers

Setting up an Ergonomically Sound Office Space