Ergonomics

Consultations

Environmental & Occupational Safety offers Ergonomic Consultation for any department that would like to take advantage of this service. Simply submit a work order through our work order system and we will make arrangements to visit your office or department and review your equipment, furniture, and layout in order to assess if there is a better ergonomic way to arrange the area for all employees. 

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the study of how humans interact with their environment (i.e., work settings). It utilizes scientific principles to alter environments in ways that align with client needs. Systematic adjustments to the environment can lead to improved work flow, reduced bodily stress and fatigue, decreased chances of injury, and increased productivity. Additionally, ergonomics seeks to improve systems for better usability through product design/re-design, systematic evaluation methods, and the development of operating standards. The first step is to observe the client in their usual work process. Then suggestions can be made about how to better structure the environment, task, or product. Alterations to workstations, tools, or tasks may be relatively simple (i.e., using an adjustable chair so that your legs fit easily under the desk).

Business Importance of Ergonomics

Every organization wants to increase organization-wide efficiency, maintain employee productivity, reduce job-related accidents, and improve customer satisfaction. Utilizing ergonomic principles makes business sense because adjusting jobs to better fit workers supports all of the above goals.

  • Why take twice as long to complete a job if you don’t have to?
  • Why risk bodily injury if you don’t have to?
  • Why have moderate customer satisfaction when you could have GREAT customer satisfaction? 

Proper Workstation Posture

3M Workspace Comfort Guide

One of the easiest ways to avoid bodily strain at a workstation is to keep your body in a neutral position. Neutral positions include: standing with your head, neck, torso, and legs aligned vertically or sitting with your head, neck, and torso aligned vertically with legs at a 90 degree angle and feet firmly on the ground (Occupational Safety & Health Administration [OSHA], n.d.; American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees [AFSCME], n.d.). Additional neutral positions include sitting in declined or reclined positions. Please follow these other tips for proper workstation posture.

  • Sit with feet firmly on the ground or resting on footstool
  • Have enough clearance under desk for legs
  • Arms should fit on chair-rests or rest comfortably at your side
  • Telephone and other commonly used items should be easily within reach
  • Computer monitors should be at eye level 

Picture showing good posture while at a computer workstation.

References

American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees [AFSCME]. (n.d.) The keys to healthy computing: A health and safety handbook. Retrieved June 12, 2006 from http://www.afscme.org/publications/1328.cfm

Occupational Safety & Health Administration [OSHA]. (n.d.) Computer workstations: Good working positions. Retrieved June 5, 2006 from http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/positions.html

Office Supply Buying Steps & Tips

The following are some additional tips for researching and purchasing office equipment.

Desk Lighting

  • Cord length should allow a variety of positions
  • Angle and intensity should be adjustable
  • Use bright light when reading printed materials
  • Use soft, focused light for computer tasks 

Chairs

  • Height and tilt should be easily adjustable
  • Chairs that swivel 360 degrees minimize twisting
  • Edges should be padded
  • Armrests should be adjustable and/or removable
  • Chairs should have sturdy bases, especially chairs with wheels 

Desks

  • Surface should be deep enough to accommodate commonly used items
  • Adjustable height is preferred (20-28 inches)
  • Legs should fit comfortably underneath, in a variety of positions
  • Matte finishes minimize glare 

Telephones

  • Cord length should reach easily so user avoids twisting
  • If on the phone for extended periods use “hands free” options such as “speaker” or headset
  • “Hands free” options should have volume controls 

Keyboards

  • Adjustable feet will provide a wider range of keyboard positions
  • Cords should be long enough to support a variety of positions
  • Consider size, especially if using a keyboard tray
  • Laptop keyboards may not be appropriate for prolonged typing tasks 

Computer Monitors

  • Display should be big enough to view easily (15-20 inches)
  • Height and angle should be adjustable
  • Flat panel screens take up less desk space – appropriate when space is limited

Links

Human Factors & Ergonomics Society (HFES)
The HFES is an organization for professionals interested in ergonomic, safety, and human factors aspects of system design and usability. Individuals interested in safety and ergonomics can find information about the group’s history, membership requirements, recent research, and professional Standards. A career center and consultant directory is also available. Additionally, October is National Ergonomics Month.

National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH)
The Department of Health and Human Services - Center for Disease Control (CDC) hosts the NIOSH website. Data and statistics concerning safety and risk prevention, hazards and injuries, and occupation specific information are available. Additionally, their Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders section is useful.