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Ergonomics in Workstation Design

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What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics evaluate the relationship between our bodies, our tasks, and our surroundings. We can use ergonomics to become more comfortable at our workstations and to adjust our workstations to fit our body types and sizes.

Risk Factors
Injuries caused by poor ergonomics are called musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Because they may take months or years to develop, it is important to recognize the risk factors that contribute to MSDs. The three most influential risk factors in MSD development are force, frequency, and posture.

Force: Force can be generated by body movements such as clicking a mouse, typing on a keyboard, or writing with a pen. Contact force occurs when you press against a hard surface such as a desktop or a stapler. Combining force with harmful posture increases the chance for MSDs.

Frequency: Making repetitive motions for long periods of time can cause your muscles to become tense and tired. Without rest, your muscles cannot recover for normal function and your muscles are at greater risk for MSDs. When you couple repetitive motion with excessive force or poor posture, the risk for MSDs increases exponentially.

Posture: Poor body position overworks your muscles and tendons and stresses your joints. Standing, sitting, and moving incorrectly put you at risk. Even good posture held too long can cause tension in muscles, reduce blood flow, and put strain on tendons. Maintaining good ergonomic positions and taking ample breaks can largely reduce your risk of MSDs.

Workstation Design
An ergonomically-correct workstation design can reduce or eliminate the risk factors that contribute to MSDs. Below are some important ergonomic points to remember when setting up or evaluating your work area.

Posture: Correct ergonomic position at your workstation can help prevent aches, tension, fatigue, and other problems. Here are some key points to consider when evaluating your workstation posture:

• Ears, shoulders, and hips aligned, maintaining the back’s natural curves
• Shoulders relaxed
• Elbows close to your body
• Forearms parallel to the floor
• Wrists straight
• Knees even with or slightly lower than your hips, creating a 90- to 110-degree angle

Chair Adjustments: Your chair should be adjustable to promote good posture. Comfort and free movement are essential. An ergonomically-correct chair can help prevent back and neck pain, circulation problems, and fatigue. An ergonomically-correct chair can also assist in having the correct wrist posture when using a keyboard, which can reduce the risk for disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome. Ensure that your chair supports your body in a safe and comfortable position, similar to the description below.

• Chair height adjusted so your forearms and thighs are parallel to the floor
• Lower back fully-supported (use a backrest, thin pillow, or rolled-up towel, if necessary)
• Armrests used only to help you get out of your chair, not to lean on while you’re working
• At least one to two inches between the seat of the chair and the back of your knees
• Feet resting comfortably on the floor or on a footrest (a phonebook or binder will work, if necessary)

Work Area in General: Avoid reaching, straining, and twisting by positioning your monitor, keyboard, mouse, and other workstation tools correctly. Correct positioning can keep your body comfortable and decrease the risk for MSDs. Use the suggestions below to evaluate your workstation.

• Document holder at same height and distance as screen
• Top of screen at, or slightly below, eye level
• Screen about arm’s-length from eyes (approx. 18 inches).
• Wrist rest, if necessary, to support your wrists and keep them straight (don’t rest your wrists while typing)
• Input devices (such as a mouse or graphics tablet) adjacent to the keyboard
• Objects you use frequently (such as the phone or dictionary) within easy reach
• If you are on the phone frequently, use a headset to avoid neck strains.

Lighting: Insufficient lighting, glare from your computer screen, and excessive lighting can contribute to eye strain, neck strain, and headaches. Check that your lighting is adjusted correctly using the points below:

• Task lamps aimed toward the document and away from the screen
• Light from outside windows blocked by blinds, or the screen placed at a right angle to the window
• Screen shaded by an anti-glare filter or hood, if necessary
• Screen free of smudges and dust (clean the screen often)
• Contrast and brightness adjusted for maximum brightness without blurring

Daily Routine: Sitting in the same position all day can restrict your circulation and cramp your muscles. To get your blood moving and relieve muscle tension, alternate your work routine with other tasks. Take short breaks to stretch. Make the following suggestions part of your daily routine:

• Get up from your desk periodically and walk around
• Slightly raise or lower the height of your chair on a regular basis
• Every hour or so, take a few seconds to shrug your shoulders, shake your arms, stretch your legs and back, rotate your ankles and wrists, and close your eyes

Additional Resources
WCF Insurance Safety Department
385.351.8103

Ask a Safety Consultant

https://www.osha.gov
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/

NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes, or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes, or standards.

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