Ergonomics is the science of fitting the task to the worker to maximize productivity while reducing discomfort, fatigue, and injury.
Risk factors that are associated with ergonomics incluce things like awkward postures, repetitive tasks, long durations, and/or forceful exertions. These risks don't often happen from one particular event they usually occur over the course of time causing them to be a cumulative risk. So just because something doesn't hurt you today does not mean that it won't down the road.
The causes of these risks most often involve musculoskeletal injuries; things like Tendonitis, DeQuervain’s Tenosynoviti, Ganglion Cyst, Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer’s Elbow), Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow), Carpal Tunnel Syndrom, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Cubital Tunnel Syndrom, and etc.
CWU EH&S has an Certified Office Ergonomic Evaluator (COEE) who can provide guidance to employees who have questions or concerns. Employees can request an online office ergonomic self-assessment, which includes questions about areas of discomfort and produces recommended workstation adjustments and training resources to help alleviate the areas of discomfort. When an online self-assessment is completed, EH&S will review and determine if an on-site visit is warranted by our COEE. The request form can be found at Request Ergonomic Assessment.
CWU EH&S does not currently have resources to provide ergonomics assessments for non-office work environments. For these types of assessments, an outside consultant may be a good option for departments to address potential risk factors for the development of musculoskeletal injuries. Consultants will evaluate workstations or work tasks to determine if changes should be made to better fit the employee.
Ergonomics is a scientific discipline, which is concerned with improving the productivity, health, safety and comfort of people, as well as promoting effective interaction among people, technology and the environment in which both must operate.
Departments are encouraged to purchase adjustable equipment for the reasonable accommodation of users. Some users may have special needs, such as left-handedness, color blindness, vision impairment, etc. The goal should be flexibility to accommodate the user population so that personnel may interface effectively with equipment. Equipment should be sized to fit the individual user.
Ergonomic furniture should be designed to facilitate task performance, minimize fatigue and injury by fitting equipment to the body size, strength and range of motion of the user. Office furnishings, which are generally available, have adjustable components that enable the user to modify the workstation to accommodate different physical dimensions and the requirements of the job. Ergonomically designed furniture can reduce pain and injury, increase productivity, improve morale, and decrease complaints.
The purchase of equipment should be task specific to eliminate:
To achieve these objectives, there are several key elements of ergonomics in the office to consider.
To give departments guidance in selecting office furniture and setting up workstations, the following guidelines are from the American National Standards Institute and the Environmental Health and Safety Center. Included are diagrams and a checklist to guide you through the process.
OFFICE CHAIR ADJUSTMENT PROCEDURE FOR A MORE COMFORTABLE, NUETRAL, SEATED POSTURE
|Seat Height:||Seat height should be pneumatically adjusted while seated. A range of 16 to 20.5-inches off the floor should accommodate most users. Thighs should be horizontal, lower legs vertical, feet flat on the floor or on a footrest. Seat height should also allow a 90-degree angle at the elbows for typing.|
|Seat Width and Depth:||A seat width of 17 to 20-inches suffices for most people and should be deep enough to permit the back to contact the lumbar backrest without cutting into the backs of knees. The front edge should be rounded and padded. The seat slant should be adjustable (0 to 10 degrees). Avoid bucket-type seats. The seat should swivel easily.|
|Backrest:||The backrest should offer firm support, especially in the lumbar (lower back) region, should be 12 to 19-inches wide, and should be easily adjustable both in angle and height, while sitting. The optimum angle between seat and back should permit a working posture of at least 90-degrees between the spine and thighs. Seat pan angle and backrest height and angle should be coordinated to allow for the most comfortable weight load on the spinal column.|
|Seat Material:||A chair seat and back should be padded enough to allow comfortable circulation. If a seat is too soft, the muscles must always adjust to maintain a steady posture, causing strain and fatigue. The seat fabric should "breathe" to allow air circulation through clothes to the skin.|
|Armrests:||Armrests are optional, depending on user preference and task performed. They should not restrict movement or impede the worker's ability to get close enough to the work surface. The worker should not rest his or her forearms while keying.|
|Footrest:||Situations will arise in which a user is perfectly adjusted for keyboard use and with the monitor at a correct angle, but his/her feet do not rest flat on the floor. A footrest may be used to correct this problem.|
|Document Holder:||Use a document holder instead of resting copy on the table top. This helps to eliminate strain and discomfort by keeping the copy close to the monitor and at the same height and distance from the users face as the screen.|
|Wrist Rests:||Wrists should only be used to support the wrist in pauses between typing if this is comfortable for the individual. Placing the wrists on a wrist rest while typing can create a bend in the wrists and pressure on the carpal tunnel. Wrist rests should have rounded, not sharp, edges and should provide a firm but soft cushion.|