It is important to know how to set up a safe and comfortable workstation and the types of good work practices that should be used to prevent or minimize injury and discomfort. In order to evaluate your own computer workstation, complete the Office Ergonomics Self‑Assessment Checklist. For additional guidance and information, refer to the specific topic of interest. You may also wish to attend an upcoming office ergonomics awareness training session. If you require additional assistance or are experiencing health symptoms you may wish to ask your supervisor to arrange an office ergonomics assessment for you through Occupational Health & Safety Services.
The keyboard and mouse should be positioned so that you can sit in a natural and relaxed posture. This will help to minimize the physical stress on the muscles, joints and tendons of your shoulders, arms, wrists and hands.
The proper height of work surfaces can be achieved by adjusting the chair, the keyboard/mouse tray and/or the monitor height. If working surfaces are too high, you may have to raise your shoulders and arms which will increase the amount of effort (static muscle load) required and may result in fatigue and discomfort over time. Improper keyboard/mouse height and tilt may cause you to extend or bend your wrists upwards to reach the keyboard, adding to discomfort and possible injury. Remember to not rest your wrists on the desk/keyboard surface while actively typing, and avoid resting them on hard or sharp edges.
An adjustable, ergonomically designed chair can help you position yourself at the proper height for your workstation and allow you to more easily maintain a natural and comfortable posture. A well designed and fitted chair will have a back rest that provides you with proper lower back support. The chair should be able to be adjusted to suit your specific body dimensions and the types of tasks that you perform. It is important to know how to adjust your chair for maximum comfort.
Take some time to familiarize yourself with the adjustable features of your chair (e.g. chair height, tilt, arm rests).
It is important to consider the placement of your computer monitor. Improper viewing distances may contribute to visual fatigue or eye strain. If the monitor is placed too high or too low, your neck muscles will have to work harder to hold your head in viewing position which may result in fatigue and discomfort over time.
In an office environment, it is important to consider both the overall lighting level and the position of lights and windows. For computer work, excessively bright lighting can cause visual discomfort, especially when it creates glare on the computer monitor. Inadequate lighting can also result in eye strain particularly when working with paper documents. Compared to computer work, paper-based work often requires a higher lighting level, such that additional task lighting may be necessary. Older workers may need a higher lighting level to compensate for visual limitations due to age.
Glare occurs when there is a large difference in light levels within the visual field. Glare can lead to visual fatigue and discomfort as the eyes try to adapt to the differences in light levels. You may also adopt an awkward body position in order to avoid either direct or indirect glare.
Direct glare occurs when a source of bright light, such as a task light or an unshaded window, is directly in your field of view. Indirect/reflected glare occurs when light bounces off nearby surfaces into your field of view. Both types of glare can be distracting and impair your ability to view the computer monitor.
To optimize the office environment with respect to lighting, the following should be considered:
The way your workstation is organized will affect your body position, posture and overall efficiency. How the task is designed may also affect risk factors associated with musculoskeletal injuries. Task design, or work scheduling, that allows for adequate rest breaks and the opportunity to stretch and change body position may help to reduce the risk of developing work-related musculoskeletal fatigue and injury due to repetitive and static muscle loading.
The following recommendations are made to improve the overall organization of your workstation:
The following are recommendations related to work scheduling and task design:
If work tasks involve extensive data entry from source documents, or frequent or prolonged phone conversations, computer accessories such as document holders and hands-free phones or headsets can be used to reduce muscular and visual fatigue.
A document holder should be used if you frequently transcribe information from hard copy to the computer.
The document holder should be adjustable and positioned between the monitor and the keyboard, or adjacent to and at the same height as the monitor, to reduce head and neck movement.
A hands-free phone option or a headset can be used when it is necessary to access or input information on the computer and talk on the telephone at the same time. This will prevent awkward head, neck, and back postures caused by holding the phone receiver between your shoulder and head.
Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness (HROE)
HROE, Humber College
205 Humber College Blvd.
Toronto, ON M9W 5L7
Main Line: 416 675-6622
Fax: 416 675-4708