Ergonomics, Part 2: 7 Elements of an Ergonomically Correct Workstation

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Continuing our discussion on establishing ergonomics practices in the workplace, we take a closer look at the office workstation. Some simple changes can yield tremendous results in preventing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs); saving employers time, and preventing future aggravation and loss of productivity.

Office Ergonomics: The Basics

The following is a comprehensive list of instructions for creating an ergonomically correct office workspace:

  1. Sit directly in front of the monitor
  2. The top of the monitor screen should be about arm’s length away and at or below eye level
  3. Add an anti-glare filter, or tilt and turn the monitor screen to eliminate reflections
  4. Decrease overhead lighting and use window shades effectively in order to reduce glare on work surfaces
  5. Procure a task light to suitably illuminate documents
  6. Use a document holder to position source documents adjacent to the computer screen and at the same height and distance
  7. Position the mouse and other input devices near to the keyboard
  8. Allow ample clearance under the keyboard support to allow for knee and leg movement
  9. Sit with head and neck in upright position; use headsets for frequent phone use
  10. Keep your elbows close to the body and your shoulders relaxed
  11. Choose a chair that allows for space behind the knees
  12. Utilize the backrest of the chair, providing full support – predominantly for the lower back
  13. To facilitate proper posture, adjust chair height
  14. Modify the chair or keyboard height to make sure that forearms, wrists and hands are in a straight line while using the keyboard
  15. Use fabric partitions, earplugs, music or a small fan to block or mask noise

Ergonomic Equipment

The right equipment can make all the difference to establishing an ergonomic work environment. Let’s examine some of the equipment available on the market that can help create a comfortable office environment.

1. Articulating Keyboard Tray

Articulating keyboard trays provide the user with considerable flexibility in positioning the keyboard, facilitating good posture and neutral positioning of hands, wrists and arms. Height adjustability, tilt or slope capabilities, moving in and out from under the desk, mouse attachments and wrist or palm rests are some of the features that contribute to articulating keyboard trays’ ergonomic value.

2. Wrist or Palm Rests

When investing in a wrist or palm rest, be sure to buy one that is even with the top of the keyboard. Avoid hard plastic; the material should be “medium soft.”

Avoid relaxing your hands on the rest as this compresses the carpal tunnel. Instead, rest the palm or heel of the hand. The rest is most useful for relaxing your hands during pauses in typing.

Interestingly, even more important than wrist support is changing one’s typing habits. Workers should learn how to type properly with “floating wrists.”

3. Chairs

The main factor to focus on when purchasing ergonomic office chairs is adjustability. Chairs should have an adjustable back, height and angle. In this manner, each employee can manipulate the chair to best provide support and stability according to their particular size and shape. A five-leg “star” base is the best choice for sturdiness and safety.

4. Monitor Stands

Monitor stands allow workers to position the monitor at the desirable height, preventing awkward postures and neck strain that result from looking up or down at the screen.

5. Document Holders

Most computer users have to strain their necks to look down at their documentation. Document holders bring reading material up to eye level. Appropriate use of document holders may reduce or eliminate risk factors such as fatigue, eye strain, awkward head and neck postures and headaches.

6. Alternative Pointing Devices

A variety of pointing devices are available on the market, allowing users to match the right mouse to their particular needs.

For example, if one notices pain in the fingers used for “clicking,” a vertical mouse with thumb-clicking is ideal. A vertical mouse also keeps the wrist in a neutral position.

A worker with wrist pain would do well with a track-ball, which eliminates the need to move the wrist back and forth.

Pointing devices come in a variety of sizes; each employee should choose the size of pointing device most appropriate for their hand.

7. Laptops

By design, laptops are not ergonomic – because the screen is attached to keyboard. Either the monitor will be too low, or the keyboard will be too high. Laptops can be improved ergonomically by acquiring a stand to raise the screen up to eye level and using a separate keyboard and mouse, which are plugged into the laptop.

Conclusion

MSDs can be disabling, painful and costly. Addressing potential issues and incorporating appropriate ergonomics practices in the workplace can help to reduce the likelihood of these disorders from occurring and can greatly improve employee wellbeing and productivity.