Office Safety – Workstation Ergonomics

Changes have occurred in the general office workplace as a result of the new office technology. As with all new technology, these changes bring with it a set of health and safety concerns such as stress-related symptoms and musculoskeletal strains. For example, 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.

Workstation Ergonomics

Ergonomics means fitting the workplace to the workers by modifying or redesigning the job, workstation, tool or environment. Workstation design can have a big impact on office workers health and well-being. There are a multitude of discomforts which can result from ergonomically incorrect computer workstation setups. The most common complaints relate to the neck, shoulders, and back. Others concern the arms and hands and occasionally the eyes. For example, poor chairs and/or bad postures can cause lower back strain; or a chair that is too high can cause circulation loss in legs and feet.

Certain common characteristics of computer workstation jobs have been identified and associated with increased risk of musculoskeletal problems. These include:

  • Design of the workstation

  • Nature of the task

  • Repetitiveness of the job

  • Degree of postural constraint

  • Work pace

  • Work/rest schedules

  • Personal attributes of individual workers.

The key to comfort is in maintaining the body in a relaxed, neutral position. The ideal work position is to have the arms hanging relaxed from the shoulders. If a keyboard is used, arms should be bent at right angles at the elbow, with the hands held in a straight line with forearms and elbows close to the body. The head should be in lined with the body and slightly forward.

Arranging Your Workstation to Fit You

A few adjustments in you workstation can alleviate some of the above identified risk of the musculoskeletal problems:

  • Adjust the height of the chair’s seat such that the thighs are horizontal while the feet are flat on the floor.
  • Adjust the seat pan depth such that your back is supported by the chair back rest while the back of the knee is comfortable relative to the front of the seat.

  • Adjust the back rest vertically so that is supports/fits the curvature of your lower back.

  • With the arms at your sides and the elbow joint approximately 90 degrees, adjust the height/position of the chair armrests to support the forearms.

  • Adjust the height of the keyboard such that the fingers rest on the keyboard home row when the arm is to the side, elbow at 90 degrees, and the wrist straight.

  • Place the mouse, trackball, or special keypads, next to the keyboard tray. Keep the wrist in a neutral position with the arm and hand close to the body.

  • Adjust the height of the monitor such that the top of the screen is at eye level. If bifocals/trifocals are used, place the monitor at a height that allows easy viewing without tipping the head back.

  • Place reference documents on a document holder close to the screen and at the same distance from the eye.

  • A footrest may be necessary if the operator cannot rest his/her feet comfortably on the floor.