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Ergonomics – Designing for Human Use

Policy
Organization and Responsibility
Office Environment
Back Safety
Health Effects
Training/Education
Evaluation Request
Ergonomic Equipment
Resources


Ergonomics is the scientific study of human work and considers the capabilities and limits of the worker during interaction with tools, equipment, work methods, tasks, and the working environment. It is, “fitting the task to the person and not the person to the task”.


Policy Statement

Wellesley College recognizes the importance of proper work environments and the prevention of cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) as part of its overall safety effort. Promoting faculty, staff and student well-being is an essential part of maintaining an effective environmental health and safety program. This policy covers ergonomically-related health concerns that may be caused by current work practices.

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Organization and Responsibility

Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S)
The Office of EH&S shall maintain the ergonomics program to meet in-house needs and comply with applicable regulations and standards as well as:
• Conduct VDT and other workstation evaluations;
• Perform job evaluations combined with recommendations for modifications;
• Train employees and supervisors in ergonomic concepts.

Managers
Each supervisor/manager is ultimately responsible for providing a safe and reasonable work environment for their employees.

Staff
It is the individual’s responsibility to follow recognized practices and policies as provided by the supervisor/manager through cooperative efforts of the Ergonomics Team and the EH&S Office. It is critical to bring to your supervisor/manager’s attention any potential ergonomic problems associated with your work area.

Human Resources
Will work with EHS and maintain medical documentation on employees.

Purchasing
The Purchasing Department will work with EHS on the evaluation, selection, and purchase, when necessary, of ergonomically correct furniture and hand tools.

Facilities Management
Facilities personnel will work with EHS on the selection of ergonomically correct furniture and work station design.

Medical Professionals
Medical professionals will conduct medical evaluations on employees who may suffer from injuries and illnesses that may have been caused by poor workstation design or poor work habits at the workstation. They will work with Human Resources and provide necessary medical documentation.

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Office Environments

Workstation Design Summary
The National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends the following workstation design features:

• viewing distance to monitor should be 16 - 27 inches
• viewing angle of the monitor should be 15 - 35 degrees
• keyboard height of 28 - 30 inches
• adjustable chair with lumbar support.

Screen Height:
The top of the display screen of your monitor should be at your eye level but not higher. For individuals who wear bi-focals, you may want the screen to be lower and closer. It is important to avoid awkward neck postures when viewing the screen or hard copy documents (that you may be working from).

Keyboard and Mouse Height:
The height of the keyboard and mouse should be at the same level (i.e., you should not be reaching for your mouse). The right “level” is one where you can sit with your shoulders relaxed, elbows bent (around 900), and forearms, wrists, and hands parallel to the floor. The keyboard should be at an angle that helps you maintain a “neutral” or flat position of your wrists (i.e., your wrists should not be bending up or down).

Posture Support:
Chairs should support the lower back region and help in avoiding pressure on the back and thighs (i.e., chairs should promote a comfortable posture). Your feet should rest firmly on the floor (or a foot rest if necessary).

Chairs:
Employees sitting in chairs, especially all day, should have a comfortable fitting well-designed chair. The following features should be available:

  • Pneumatic adjustments
  • Seat adjustable with a tilt and depth slider.
  • Backrest separate from seat, is ajdustable, can tilt & lock, and has lumbar support.
  • Arms adjustable - height and lateral movement
  • Various sizes - can have optional shaft lenghts, wider seats, tall backs.

 

Illumination/Glare

• Lighting levels in work areas will be set at the recommended levels for the specific equipment/function.
• Screen hoods and anti-glare filters can be installed upon request but it is important to reposition your monitor as a first step, when feasible, to help alleviate glare problems. For example, monitors should not be positioned in front of windows.

Work-Rest Regimens

• Take frequent breaks, get up and stretch, do not remain at the computer station for long periods of time, allow for rest.
• If you can, alternate tasks so that you are not conducting repetitive tasks (e.g., sorting or filing or typing, etc.) for prolonged periods of time. It is important to try to alternate between the various tasks to help prevent fatigue or discomfort.

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Back Safety

Back disorders are listed in the "top ten" leading workplace injuries published by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. They account for 27 percent of all nonfatal injuries and illnesses involving days away from work.
According to recent injury figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, each year there are over 880,000 cases of back injuries. In most sectors of industry, back injuries now rank either second or third overall (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1998).
Over our lifetimes, 8 out of 10 people will experience a back injury and back pain. Most back injuries are painful, debilitating, and life changing.

What can Cause Back Pain
• Improper lifting technique
• Picking up oversize loads
• Using back belts improperly
• Posture and poor alignment
• Awkward stretches while reaching
• Being in poor physical condition
• Static work postures
Prevention
Preventing a back injury is much easier than repairing one. Because your back is critically important to your ability to walk, sit, stand, and run, it's important to take care of it, so here are a few basic rules:
• Exercise to strengthen your back and reduce stress
• Lose excess weight
• Maintain good posture – all the time!

Some Tips
Before you lift that box, or tool, or piece of equipment, take a moment to consider your action:
• Do you need to lift the item manually?
• How heavy is it?
• Is it packed correctly?
• Is it easy to reach the load?
• Where are you moving the item from?
• Where does it have to go?
• What route do you have to follow?

When Lifting:
1. Keep feet parted for stability
2. Squat down bending at the knees (not your waist). Tuck your chin while keeping your back as vertical as possible.
3. Get a firm grasp of the object before beginning the lift.
4. Begin slowly lifting with your LEGS by straightening them. Never twist your body during this step.
5. Once the lift is complete, keep the object as close to the body as possible

• Pace yourself and get help before you try to lift a heavy load.
• Use mechanical lifting devices to lift and or move heavy objects. If using a forklift or similar type device, make sure you have the appropriate training.
• Slide heavy materials if possible rather than lifting them. Planks and rollers can make this job easier.
• Storing materials at least 12 inches off the ground, can minimize having to lift directly off the ground.
• Never try to catch heavy falling objects.
And….
• To reduce the risk of injury during standing work, remember to move around, take breaks and stretch, and watch your posture.

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Health Effects

As the use of video display terminals and other electronic equipment increases, concerns have been expressed about their potential health effects. Typical complaints can include excessive fatigue, eye strain and irritation, blurred vision, headaches, stress, general physical discomfort, cumulative trauma disorder, and neck, back, arm, and muscle pain.


Training/Education

The EH&S Office and or the Ergonomics Team can provide group educational discussions and one-on-one individual sessions at the request of an individual/department. Books and interactive CD-Rom training programs are also available in the EH&S Office for individual review.

Improving the Ergonomics in Your Work Area
Changes in your work area can be accomplished through re-positioning of office equipment, purchasing of accessories to help achieve a better ergonomic fit and through periodic exercises and stretch breaks. Prior to contacting EH&S, go to the OSHA website at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/ergonomics/index.html and perform an evaluation of your workspace.

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Evaluation Requests

If you need help in addressing your work station ergonomic concerns please have your supervisor/manager print out/download this form and either email or sent interoffice to Suzanne Howard in the EH&S Office. EH&S will then schedule an assessment of your current work station.

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Ergonomic Equipment

If you are experiencing symptoms associated with ergonomic-related issues then your department may need to purchase items such as an ergonomically designed keyboard, footrest, wrist support pads, mouse pad alternatives and padding for sharp edged surfaces. If you are experiencing symptoms it is critical to seek medical attention in order to determine the most appropriate corrective action. For items that may require additional resources a separate fund under the control of purchasing may be utilized for providing the required changes.

Wellesley College Chair Choices

From the humanscale.com web site:

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Resources

Cornell Univeristy - Ergonomics Web Page
UCLA - Ergonomics Web Page
Yale University - Ergonomics Web Page

Microsoft Support - Keyboard Shortcuts for Windows