When discussing ergonomic design it is important to understand that it is the relationship between the worker and work equipment, tools, or processes that is the problem, not any particular characteristic on either side. These are generally confusing for employees or organization that order expensive ergonomic tools and equipment for his/her workers and is disappointed when the workers continue to suffer work-related injuries and illnesses. A tool or equipment is never in itself ergonomic; rather, it is the FIT between a particular piece of equipment, tool and the intended user that creates a proper ergonomic situation.

Extended work with computers can lead to muscular fatigue and discomfort, usually in the back, arms, shoulder, and neck. As well, if the computer is used for prolonged periods in awkward postures, there is a risk of musculoskeletal injury. This risk increases as the intensity of computer use increases. Work duties that involve poor posture and repetitive movements, such as typing, can cause muscle fatigue and injuries to other soft tissue. For example, people working at desks for extended periods often adopt postures that lead to discomfort and injury over time, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Frequently, the source of MSDs is the operator’s posture while working at the terminal, and this posture is due in turn to the layout of the workstation and the furniture provided. The specific task and the intensity of the work are also factors. Ergonomics is the process of designing workplaces, equipment and systems so that they are suited to the user. This approach can be applied to numerous aspects of a workplace such as chairs, tables, keyboards, computer screens and telephones.

Incorporate the principles of ergonomic design into your workplace. This may include, for example, purchasing office chairs that provide a headrest, adjustable height and adequate lumbar support.

You can also do small things in the workplace to reduce poor ergonomics such as:

Monitors

  1. Screen should be large enough for adequate visibility.
  2. The angle and tilt should be easily adjustable.
  3. Make sure the top of the screen is at the user’s eye level.
  4. Employees should have their eyes checked regularly and discuss their computer use with their optometrists.

Keyboards

  1. Split keyboard designs will allow you to maintain neutral wrist postures.
  2. Consider the shape and size of the keyboard if a keyboard tray is used. The keyboard should fit comfortably on the tray.
  3. Keyboards should be detached from the display screen if they are used for a long duration keying task. Laptop keyboards are generally not suitable for prolonged typing tasks.
  4. The cord that plugs into the CPU should be long enough( at least six feet) to allow the user to place the keyboard and CPU in a variety of positions.

Chairs

  1. Chair should be easily adjustable.
  2. The chair should have a sturdy five-legged base with good chair casters that roll easily over the floor or carpet.
  3. The chair should swivel 360 degrees so it is easier to access items around your workstation without twisting.
  4. Minimum range for seat height should be about 16 inches.
  5. Seat pan length should be 15-16 inches.
  6. Seat pan should be as wide as user’s thighs.
  7. Chair edges should be padded and contoured for support.
  8. Front edge of the seats pan should be rounded in a waterfall fashion.
  9. The backrest should be at least 15 inches high and 12 inches wide and should provide lumbar support that matches the curve of your lower back.
  10. Backrest should allow you to recline at least 15 degree

Keyboards trays

  1. Keyboard trays should be wide enough and deep enough to accommodate the keyboard and any peripheral devices, such as a mouse.
  2. If a keyboard tray is used, the minimum vertical adjustment range (for a sitting position) should be 22 inches to 28 inches from the floor.
  3. Keyboard tray should have adjustment mechanisms that lock into position without turning knobs. These are frequently over tightened, which can lead to stripped threads, or they may be difficult for some users to loosen.

Desks and work surfaces

  1. The desk area should be deep enough to accommodate a monitor placed at least 20 inches away from your eyes.
  2. Desktops should have a matte finish to minimize glare. Avoid glass tops.
  3. Avoid sharp leading edges where your arms come in contact with work surfaces. Rounded or sloping surfaces are preferable.
  4. You should have sufficient space to place the items you use most often, such as keyboard, mouse, and monitor directly in front of you.

Mouse / pointing devices

  1. Choice a mouse/pointer based on the requirement of your task and your physical limitations. There really is no difference, other than preference, among a mouse, trackball, or other devices.
  2. A mouse should match the contour of your hand .
  3. If you choose a trackball, avoid ones that require the thumb to roll the ball.
  4. A mouse that has sensitivity adjustments and can be used with either hand is desirable.

Telephones

  1. If task requirements mandate extended periods of use or other manual tasks such as typing while using the phone, use a telephone with a hands-free headset.
  2. The telephone should have a speaker feature for hands-free usage.
  3. Hands-free headsets should have volume adjustments and volume limits.

Document holders

  1. Document holder needs to be stable but easy to adjust for height, position, distance, and viewing angle.
  2. If the monitor screen is your primary focus, purchase a document holder that will sit next to the monitor at the same height and distance.
  3. If the task require frequent access to the document then a holder that sits between the keyboard and monitor may be more appropriate.

Wrist rests

  1. Wrist rest should match the front edge of the keyboard in width, height, slope and contour.
  2. Pad should be soft but firm. Gel type materials are recommended.
  3. Wrist rest should be at least 1.5 inches deep (away from the keyboard) to minimize contact pressure on the wrists and forearm.

Illumination and glare

  1. Good desk lighting depends on the task you’re performing. Use bright lights with a large lighted area when working with printed materials. Limit and focus light for computer tasks.
  2. The location and angle of the light sources, as well as their intensity levels, should be fully adjustable.
  3. The light should have a hood or filter to direct or diffuse the light.
  4. The base should be large enough to allow a range of positions or extensions.

It is really important to take a ‘proactive’ rather than a ‘reactive’ approach to these types of hazards. This means that rather than responding to an incident when it occurs, you should look for and address areas in your workplace that are in need of improvement. Train your workers in methods like this and don’t forget to train workers who work from home in these practices as well. Consult them about their needs, and ensure that any equipment you provide is appropriate and they are aware of potential hazards related to sedentary work, poor posture and repetitive movements, how to identify the hazards, and how to avoid them.

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