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Computer Ergonomics

The work place is often seen as the place with the lowest risk of injury; as opposed to injuries from outdoor activities like basketball, tennis, skydiving etc. This could not be further from the truth. Musculoskeletal disorders that cause great discomfort can develop if the proper ergonomic guidelines are not taken into consideration.


Why is computer ergonomics important?

Musculoskeletal disorders develop because of repetitive stress and strain to the body system. This occurs most often at the desk; or more explicitly, the computer work station. Sitting in front of the computer and concentrating on computer tasks for extended periods of time can be damaging to the body if it is not allowed to rest in a proper configuration during these tasks.

Ergonomic posture at the computer is essential in preventing musculoskeletal injuries and increasing productivity. The following setups are detailed into work station and body setup. It is recommended to follow this sequence in order to ensure a proper computer ergonomic environment in the work place. A lot of this information was referenced from the Occupational Safety & Health Administraion's (OSHA's) guidelines for computer work stations.

See also Ergonomics in the Workplace.

What Kind Of Workstation Do You Have?

Not all workstations are the same and computer ergonomics guidelines do not apply the same for different types of 'workstations' Workstation Ergonomics apply differently if you use a

1) Desktop

2) Laptop

3) Touch Pad udesk

If You Use A Desktop

If you use a desktop, these are the computer ergonomics factors to consider such as visibility, chair, monitor, desk, keyboard, mouse, for maximum ergonomic benefit.

(These computer ergonomics factors also applies to laptops and touchpads).computerergo

Do this self-check now!

Visibility

1. Incandescent light is preferred over fluorescent lighting (less strain on the eyes)

2. Glare on the screen and the rest of the environment is not recommended

3. Task lighting is not recommended for computer use.

Chair

The most suitable chair is the one that allows the user to adjust to his/her ergonomic sweet spot. Ensure the following,

1. Backrest or ergonomic back supports provides support for your lower back (lumbar area).

2. Seat width and depth accommodate the specific user (seat pan not too big/small).

3. Seat front does not press against the back of your knees and lower legs (seat pan not too long).

4. Seat has cushioning and is rounded with a "waterfall" front (no sharp edge).

5. Ergonomic-Arm-rests, if used, support both forearms while you perform computer tasks and they do not interfere with movement.

6. Thighs have sufficient clearance space between the top of the thighs and your computer table/keyboard platform (thighs are not trapped).

7. Legs and feet have sufficient clearance space under the work surface so you are able to get close enough to the keyboard/input device.

8. A Footstool is used if your feet are not touching the floor, when your knees at a somewhat right angle (ideal working computer posture).

Click to read Ergonomic Chair Adjustment - How to Adjust Your Chair For Ergonomic Benefit

Monitor

1. Top of the screen is at or below eye level so you can read it without bending your head or neck down/back. Place the center of the screen at a 15 degree down angle from your eyes

2. User with bifocals/trifocals can read the screen without bending the head or neck backward.

3. Monitor distance as far away as possible but still allows you to read the screen without leaning your head, neck or trunk forward/backward.

4. Monitor position is directly in front of you so you don't have to twist your head or neck.

5. Glare (for example, from windows, lights) is not reflected on your screen which can cause you to assume an awkward posture to clearly see information on your screen. Position the monitor to minimize glare by placing it at a right angle to light sources or windows.

6. Set the refresh rate at a minimum of 70 Hz to limit flicker.

For more information on Monitor Ergonomics, click here.

Desk

Sufficient space is allowed to easily read hardcopy material close to you while working with the computer.

Keyboard

1. Keyboard/input device platform(s) is stable and large enough to hold a keyboard and an input device.

2. Wrists and hands do not rest on sharp or hard edges.

3. The keyboard should be positioned at or below the elbow to keep the wrist aligned with the forearm or at a slightly negative angle. Keyboard tray is recommended for such purposes.

Click to read more about Ergonomics for Computer Keyboards.

Mouse

1. Input device (mouse or trackball) is located right next to your keyboard so it can be operated without reaching and at the same level as the keyboard.

2. Input device is easy to activate and the shape/size fits your hand (not too big/small).

3. Wrists and hands do not rest on sharp or hard edges. ulap

If You Use A Laptop

If you use a laptop regularly, laptop ergonomics should be applied.

The same principles such as visibility, chair, monitor, desk, keyboard, mouse, as mentioned for desktop should be followed just the same for laptops. See above section.

However, with the monitor attached to the keyboard as laptops fold away, it is a challenge to maintain the same ergonomic workstation setup.

There are some debates about the uses of an ergonomic laptop stand. While it helps bring your screen up to eye level, it is hard to practice good typing ergonomics on it.

Use Your Laptop For Less Than Two Hours

People who use their computers occasionally for less than two hours will not likely develop musculoskeletal disorders. Though you can make a few posture arrangements as recommended in computer ergonomics to minimize the risk (anyway).

1) Use a comfortable chair that can be adjusted to your body's ergonomic sweet spot and also reclines slightly to allow the monitor to be as closely aligned to your eyes

2) Angle the laptop screen so you can easily view the images with the least amount of neck deviation.

If You Use Your Laptop For MORE Than Two Hours

No doubt, the use of laptops as a replacement for desktops are more common. If you use your laptop frequently and for longer than two hours, try to keep in mind the ergonomic principles of posture, typing and always be aware of the way you sit and work on your desk.

Here are Some Computer Ergonomics Tips:

1) Position the laptop on your desk/work surface directly in front of you.

2) Set the unit's height and screen angle so the images can be easily read without bending your neck. If required, use an ergonomic laptop stand i.e. computer monitor pedestal, to elevate the laptop off the desk surface. It is common to use thick phone books if nothing else is available

3) If your desk height is satisfactory for your screen's placement, attach a separate, full sized keyboard to your computer and use an independent mouse rather than the touch pad, trackball, or small joystick incorporated into your keyboard.

4) Place the separate keyboard on a negative-tilt keyboard tray connected beneath your desk surface. This helps ensure a neutral wrist posture.

5) The mouse can be placed on an adjustable position mouse platform.

6) Sit in a comfortable, adjustable chair with lumbar support and which allows you to sit at a slightly reclined position. This takes much weight off muscles and joints in the low back.

In general, one may say there can be no such thing as an ergonomic laptop, at least strictly speaking in computer ergonomics. upad

If You Use A Touch Pad

The advent of the smart phone and touch pads (eg iPad and Kindle) create more challenges for maintaining an ergonomic posture if proper discipline is not taken.

Why? It is mainly because the keyboard is integrated into the screen.

This configuration makes it the most diffiult to adopt an ergonomic posture.

If you need to long for long hours, you ought to make attempts to connect a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse to your touch pad.

The best ergonomic posture to adopt is to either sit in a reclined position and have the pad directly in front and aligned with your eyes

OR

to have the touch pad resting on the table and you adopting an ergonomic sitting posture.

The Verdict of Computer Ergonomics Application?

Either way, the verdict is not to use your ipad or touch pads for extended periods of time as they are hazardous to your health.

Computer Posture

computer posture

Computer posture and body setup is AS IMPORTANT as the above mentioned ergonomics computer principles.

In general, there is no one correct sitting posture to conform to during long hours in front of the computer.

Although most people have some awareness of their sitting posture, the most problems come from their neck posture. Their heads are too far forward. This happens when they strain their eyes too much at a computer. Hence the need for visual ergonomics.

Use the guidelines in the picture to check your computer posture and to study computer ergonomics.

The steps needed for an ergonomic posture at a computer - sometimes known as the keyboarding posture can also be found on our computer posture page.

Thank you for reading 'Computer Ergonomics'!

Go back to Define Ergonomics.

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