Prolonged and repetitive work at your computer workstation, poor posture, lack of proper equipment and incorrect ergonomic information are all contributing factors to an improper computer setup which can lead to computer-related injuries. Computer-related injuries cover a wide variety of injuries and health problems caused by or exacerbated by computer usage. Many computer-related injuries can prevented by simply setting up an ergonomic computer workstation.
In setting up your ergonomic computer workstation, the goal is to set it up so you will be able to reach your entire work area (including your phone, computer keyboard, computer mouse, frequently used office supplies, etc.) without having to strain or twist your body. Today, numerous Universities like Cornell, Stanford, UC Davis, University of Virginia, UCLA and others have done intense studies highlighting the benefit of ergonomic computer workstations and the dangers to workers’ health arising by not following certain guidelines.
General Guidelines on Setting up an Ergonomic Computer Workstation
The following are general guidelines based on this research on how to set up an ergonomic computer workstation at the office or at home:
- The chair is key to an ergonomic computer workstation because sitting, in an office chair or in general, is a static posture that increases stress in the back, shoulders, arms, and legs, and in particular, can add large amounts of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs. That is why it is important to use a good chair with a dynamic chair back that supports your lumbar region and adjust the height so your feet are flat on the floor. This keeps the knees and torso at roughly the same height. To find this height, stand by the chair and raise or lower the seat pan to just below your elbows bent between 90 and 110 degrees to promote good low back health.
- Adjust the chair armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed and your elbow bends at around a 90 degree angle. Use of an armrest on your office chair is important to take some of the strain off your upper spine and shoulders, and it should make you less likely to slouch forward in your chair. However, if your armrests are in the way, remove them temporarily.
- Your feet should be flat on the floor or on a stable footrest to help reduce strain on back and neck muscles.
- The top of monitor casing should be 2-3″ (5-8 cm) above eye level and centered directly in front of your face (preferably no more than 35 degrees to either side). If you wear bifocals, lower the monitor to a comfortable reading level. This helps reduce the risk of eye strain and awkward positions.
- To determine the proper distance for your monitor, sit back and extend your arm. The tips of your middle finger should land on your screen – between 20 and 40 inches (50 and 100 centimeters) from your face. Laptop users may want to consider height adjustable laptop stand, which can accommodate a variety of workers and work postures.
- Make sure there is no glare on screen. If necessary, place screen at right angles to windows, adjust curtains or blinds or use an optical glass anti-glare filter. Don’t forget to adjust the vertical screen angle and screen controls to minimize glare from overhead lights.
- Use an inline copy stand to position source documents directly in front of you, between the monitor and the keyboard. If there is insufficient space, place source documents on a document holder positioned adjacent to the monitor.
- When using a keyboard/mouse/input device, your wrists should flat and straight in relation to forearms. You can also alternate left and right-sided mouse usage to reduce the effects of repetitive use.
- Position your keyboard about 1 to 2 inches above your thighs and in a place where your arms and elbows are relaxed and close to body. This way, you are not extending your arms too far forward or bending your elbows too far back to type. To reach the keyboard, your forearms should bend no more than 20 degrees above horizontal (if sitting) or 45 degrees below (if standing).
- Center the keyboard in front of you, so you are not reaching to one side or another to type. And, position the mouse near the keyboard, so it is easy to transition from typing to mousing. Ideally, your keyboard and mouse should be shoulder-distance apart and as level as possible.
- Use a negative tilt keyboard tray with an upper mouse platform or downward tiltable platform adjacent to keyboard, so that your arms and hand follow the downward slope of your thighs.
- Use a stable work surface and stable (no bounce) keyboard tray.
- Place your telephone within easy reach. Telephone stands or arms can help. Use a headset or speaker phone to eliminate the awkward posture of cradling the handset.
Setting an Ergonomic Computer Workstation Alone is Not Enough to Prevent Injuries
Setting up an ergonomic computer workstation is not enough to assure the reduction of computer related injuries. You also need to take frequent short breaks (microbreaks) at least once every hour to give your eyes and muscles a break. This helps prevent eye strain and muscle fatigue. Take time to stand up, stretch and move around. Get up and get a glass of water, get some office supplies you need from the cabinet or make a phone call. Try to stand as much as possible when on the phone to help stretch out your muscles and vary your posture. Frequent microbreaks are as important to your health as any other part of an ergonomic computer workstation because they keep you awake, productive and healthy and keep you from developing Deep Vein Thrombosis and other conditions arising from not varying your posture often enough.
This OSHA Ergonomic Solutions checklist can help you create an ergonomic computer workstation. If you have questions or need further assistance in setting up your ergonomic computer workstation, call Accredited Rehabilitation Consultants at (323) 930-6599