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Health and Safety Guide



    Individuals who use computers for extended periods of time may experience eye fatigue and pain or discomfort in the hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, neck or back. This is usually caused by poor work habits, poor work station design or improper use of workstation components. In most cases, corrective measures are relatively simple and inexpensive.

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Scope and Application

While the guidelines described in this program may benefit anyone who uses a computer, they are primarily intended for individuals using desktop computers. Most of the guidelines will not apply to laptop computers which are designed only for short-term use and cannot be sufficiently adjusted.

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Program Description

    Workstation Assessment

    A survey of actual computer use will help supervisors determine which workstations and individuals should be targeted for further evaluation. Highest priority should be given to those individuals who experience symptoms and spend more than 2 hours per day at a computer. The workstation evaluation should be completed with the individual at the workstation following the ergonomic guidelines below. An employee handout, Ergonomic Suggestions for Your Comfort, may be referenced, duplicated and given to the individual during the evaluation.

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Ergonomic Guidelines

    The following guidelines are intended to help supervisors understand and reduce health risks associated with computer workstations. Since no two bodies are identical, different styles, models, and sizes of furniture and accessories may be needed. Since a wide variety of products are available to suit individual and departmental needs, no specific product recommendations are made here. Consult with the Purchasing Office for the latest product information. The best results are usually achieved when the individual is involved in the selection process.

    • The work surface should be of sufficient area to accommodate the computer and all associated materials. There should be adequate space beneath this surface for the operatorís legs and feet.
    • The keyboard and mouse should be directly in front of the operator at a height that favors a neutral posture (23 to 28 inches). When placed at standard desk height of 30 inches, keyboards and input devices are too high for most people. Raising the chair solves this problem for some individuals. An adjustable keyboard platform with mouse deck is usually the best solution. The objective is a posture with upper arms relaxed and wrists straight in line with the forearm. Wrist rests may also help and are built into most keyboard holders. For some people alternative keyboard and mouse designs may need to be considered.


    • The monitor should be positioned at a distance of approximately armís length and directly in front of  the operator. The top of the screen should be no higher than eye level. A monitor placed on top of the computer can easily be lowered by relocating the computer. Many flat-screen monitors are height adjustable, stackable monitor blocks can be used to achieve the desired height. Adjustable monitor arms enable easy height adjustment for workstations with multiple users.
    • A well designed chair will favorably affect posture, circulation, the amount of effort required to maintain good posture, and the amount of strain on the back. Desired features of a chair include: pneumatic seat height adjustment, back height adjustment, seat depth adjustment (either by moving the back of the chair or moving the seat pan), 360 degree swivel. Tilt is not necessarily recommeded, and if a chair has tilt, it should also be equipped with tilt lock. Armrests are not recommended for computer use.
    • Additional accessories can improve operator comfort. Document holders can minimize eye, neck and shoulder strain by positioning the document close to the monitor. A footrest should be used where the feet cannot be placed firmly on the floor. Task lamps will illuminate source documents when room lighting is reduced.
    • Glare should be eliminated through methods that include reduction of room lighting; shielding windows with shades, curtains or blinds; positioning the terminal at a right angle to windows; and tilting the monitor to avoid reflection from overhead lighting. Glare screens are not normally necessary.
    • All computer users should receive basic training in potential health effects that may result from poor posture and work habits, early warning symptoms, workstation adjustment, and other self-help protective measures. Supervisors should receive similar training to easily recognize problems and know what corrective measures to take. Training sessions are available through EHS.

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Roles and Responsibilities


    • Survey the workplace to identify individuals at risk.
    • Plan ahead for workstation improvement expense in annual budgets.
    • Plan for all workstation components before purchasing new or replacement computers.
    • Call EHS at 258-5294 for ergonomic evaluations and training.
    • Order needed workstation components from Purchasing.
    • Instruct computer operators on workstation adjustment and proper posture.
    • Arrange workload to provide for alternative work breaks.
    • Be aware of and watch for signs and symptoms of injury.
    • Refer employees with injury symptoms to the Office of Employee Health.
    • Refer students with injury symptoms to University Health Services.
    • Request help from referral sources as needed.
    • Evaluate workstation ergonomics upon request.
    • Provide group training upon request.
    • Adjust work station components to maintain a neutral posture.
    • Use accessories as recommended in training and instruction.
    • Report work station and physical problems to supervisor promptly.
    Employee Health
    • Provide medical evaluations, consultations and treatment.
    • Provide specific product information and recommendations.
    • Purchase furniture and accessories (including installation).

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For More Information
  • Contact EHS, Safety Engineer at 258-5294 to schedule a review of your workstation or for additional information.
  • A Computer Workstation Self-Audit Checklist is available through EHS may be downloaded either as a PDF or a customizable Word document.
  • Refer to the Furniture Standards Manual published by the Purchasing Office for information on furniture and ergonomic accessories.
  • Furniture and accessories currently available are on display in the Purchasing Office at 2 New South. Call 258-6274 for an appointment.
  • Free surplus furniture is available through Building Services. The warehouse at 755 Alexander Street is open 9:00 am to 12:00 pm on Tuesdays, no appointment necessary.
    • Links to other Computer Workstation information sources on the web are available by clicking here.

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