Ergonomics – Designing for Human Use
Organization and Responsibility
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”.
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.
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.
Each supervisor/manager is ultimately responsible for providing a safe
and reasonable work environment for their employees.
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.
Will work with EHS and maintain medical documentation
The Purchasing Department will work with EHS on
the evaluation, selection, and purchase, when necessary, of ergonomically
correct furniture and hand tools.
Facilities personnel will work with EHS
on the selection of ergonomically correct furniture and work station
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
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
Exercise to strengthen your back and reduce stress
Lose excess weight
Maintain good posture – all the time!
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?
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
• Pace yourself and get help before you try to lift a heavy
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
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.
To reduce the risk of injury during standing work, remember to move
around, take breaks and stretch, and watch your posture.
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
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.
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
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: