What is Ergonomics?

The word ergonomics comes from the Greek word ERGOS (work) and NOMOS (natural law/system).

It is the application of scientific knowledge to the workplace. In order to improve the well being and efficiency of both the individual and the organization. (national research council of Canada)

Adjusting Your Work Station:

Sitting practices.

  • Adjust the seat of the chair so that your thighs are horizontal and your knees are at right angles. (another method to check chair height is to stand in front of the chair and adjust the height so that the highest point of the seat is just below your kneecaps)
  • Rest your back against the backrest at all times.
  • Sit so the clearance between the front edge of the seat and the back of your knee is the breadth of two to three fingers to minimize pressure on the underside of your leg. A footrest will elevate your legs and reduce any pressure.
  • Sit close to your work.
  • Avoid sitting for long periods. Alternate between sitting, standing, and walking.
  • Keep your back in good alignment and keep your chin tucked in. Adjust the lumbar support so that it rests in the small of your back.
  • Adjust the armrests to that the shoulders are relaxed and the elbows are at 90 degrees. If your armrests are fixed and do not allow for this posture, so not use them while keying, or using the mouse. If the armrests are too high, or to low, have them removed.
  • Office work is sedentary in nature. In leisure time, balance your work with an active sport or activity you enjoy.

Work surface

  • For working in a sitting position. The work surface should be about the height of the elbows when the arms are hanging straight down while seated.
  • Remove all clutter from under the work surface to allow free movement of the legs and feet.
  • Use a footrest to support the back and legs if your feet cannot rest flat on the color or if there is pressure on the back of the legs. Contact your supervisor if the discomfort persists.
  • Adjust the position of your keyboard to keep your wrists straight with elbows at 90 degrees. You can  do this by adjusting your chair heights or by adjusting the keyboard platform.
  • Place the keyboard and the mouse within comfortable reach. Try and maintain your elbows at your side.
  • Position the mouse next to the keyboard at the same height as the keyboard, or slightly higher If overreaching is noted.
  • Position the keyboard for two handed keyboarding directly in front of you.
  • Position the keyboard for one handed data entry in front of the keying hand.
  • Use the wrist palm support and or mouse wrist pad for micro breaks from keyboarding or using the mouse.
  • Avoid resting your hands or wrists on the support during keying and mouse use.
  • Use keystrokes as an alternative to mouse use whenever possible.
  • Keep the wrist relaxed and straight. Do not lift your little finger or thumb.
  • Hold the mouse loosely with the palm and all fingers.
  • Apply a light touch while clicking. Do not squeeze mouse or press buttons with excessive force.
  • Move the mouse with the whole arm, initiating movement from the shoulder.
  • Position the monitor directly in front of you. If you perform data entry work, consider placing the document holder in front.
  • Adjust screen height. Monitors should be at eye level or slightly below eye level.
  • Place monitor 18”-30” from eyes. Guide- Arms length rule- If the font is small, move the monitor closer to reduce eye  discomfort, but not too close, because it makes it more difficult to focus or cramps your work space. Consider enlarging font size.
  • Adjust monitor brightness and contrasts for optimal character definition.
  • Tilt monitor down if glare is noted on the screen.
  • Close blinds during peal periods to minimize glare on the screen.
  • Use an anti glare screen to reduce glare.
  • Clean screen at least once per week.
  • Dark writing on a light background is easier to read and visually the least tiring.
  • Contact your supervisor if your screen is flickering.
  • Change the focus from your screen periodically to minimize eye discomfort.
  • See an optometrist every two years.
  • Use computer specific glasses if necessary  If you find yourself tilting your head up to see the screen due to bifocal/trifocal use, even after setting the monitor height, you may want to consider computer specific glasses.


Set the monitor brightness similar to the surrounding work area background. Darker surroundings should have a darker screen and brighter surrounding should have a correspondingly lighter background. Adjust the contrast for improved character visibility and legibility.

Screen Color

Screen color is a matter of personal preference in combination with the circumstances the screen is being used. Too many colors created confusion.

Color Use Guidelines

  • To avoid confusion, use only four to seven colors
  • Opponent colors (i.e.: purple and yellow) are good combinations.
  • Avoid color contrasts such as red and blue as your eyes will tire quickly.
  • Avoid blue for small numbers or letters as the eye has difficulty focusing on this color.
  • White on yellow is hard to read as there is little contrast. Yellow ion green creates a vibrating effect on the eye.
  • Older operators may need greater brightness levels to differentiate colors

Ergonomic Accessories

Document holder

  • Position document holder at the same distance and same height as the monitor.
  • Position the document holder on the same side as the dominant eye.
  • To determine your dominant eye:
    • Make a triangle with your fingers.
    • Focus on an object in the distance.
    • Close the right eye then the left without moving your hands.
    • The eye that keeps the object centered is your dominant eye.


  • Use a footrest if your feet cannot touch the floor

Palm/ Wrist support

  • Avoid resting your hands on the support while actively using the keyboard or mouse. Use during rest periods only


  • Use a headset if you frequently use the phone (for long and or frequent calls)
  • Hold the telephone with one hand, do not cradle it between your ear and shoulder it you do not use a headset.

Job Design

Is the “what” and “how” of a job. A good job design fits tasks to our physical and mental needs. Components of a good job design include:

  • Task variety
  • Workplace
  • Work breaks
  • Rest breaks
  • Adjustment periods, and
  • Training and education

Task Variety

To increase variety in a job:

  • Reorganize tasks: alternate tasks within a job to minimize repetition.
  • Job enlargement: More variety is added to a job
  • Team work: each member of the team shares several different tasks
  • Job rotation: People move from one task to another according to a schedule


A fast pace of work allows the body little recovery time between repetitive or forceful movements, and can increase the chance of increased mistakes. A good work pace should be determined by the joint efforts of management and workers to establish reasonable work quotas, schedules and goals that meet specific needs.

Work breaks

Work breaks are the time between tasks that allow for changes in position. These can help to prevent RSI’s by allowing us to rest, stretch, or change positions when we need to. For continuous computer work, a work break of 5 minutes per hour is generally recommended.

The Brügger relief position is an ideal workplace "micro-break." It activates an entire chain of muscles linked to the upright posture. To prevent the tendency to hyperextend the lumbar spine with this exercise, it should be performed with active exhalation.

Rest Breaks

Rest breaks are the time when we stop working. Besides leaving the workstation, we should use this time to stretch and change positions.

Adjustment period

An adjustment period is the time we need to “get in shape” when we return to our job after a long absence / extended illness, or when we start a new job. The length of the adjustment period depends on the type if job.