Health and Safety

Ergonomic considerations

Ergonomics includes the practice of designing someone’s workstation to fit his or her individual needs.  As standard office equipment varies to reflect multiple uses, it is beneficial to make individualized adjustments to fit every person’s body shape and job demands.

Workstation set-up, safe lifting techniques, proper posture, appropriate seating position, and adaptive equipment are only a few of the many examples of ergonomics in the workplace.

Key items to review to help ensure that your office workstation is set up correctly:

Mousing

Ensure the mouse is placed as close as possible to the end of the keyboard. It should also be at the same level (height) as the keyboard to avoid reaching (which engages your shoulder muscles).

Telephone answering

Cradling the handset between shoulder and ear is ergonomically unsound. It contracts the muscles on one side of the neck and extends those on the other side.

Forearm orientation

Maintain an imaginary straight line from the inner crook of your elbows to the top of your wrists to the top of your large knuckles. Your elbows should be at a 90 to 110 degree angle (hands may be slightly downward), with your upper arms dropping as they do naturally in an orientation perpendicular to the floor -- do not reach forward -- this may mean pulling your chair in.

Armrest placement

When keying, ensure your elbows are near your sides, not on your armrests. If there is not room to do this, have the armrests removed, lower the armrests when keying (if they are adjustable in height), or adjust the armrests farther apart (if they adjust laterally). Your elbows should comfortably rest on your armrests when you are not keying, and your shoulders should be relaxed, not raised.

Desk writing surface

Your elbows should just graze the desktop when you are writing. The easiest way to tell if your chair is at the right height for this task is to place your chair sideways to your desk, bend your elbow at 90 degrees, relax your shoulders, and ensure your elbow just touches your desk surface.

Monitor location

Your neck has a natural range of motion of 15 degrees in either direction. If your monitor is to one side, please move it so that it is centered -- there should be an imaginary line from the centre of you, through the centre of the keys you are using on the computer (normally, the lettered keys, which means you centre yourself on the space bar), to the centre of the monitor.

Monitor height

Your line of sight should fall straight across to where you read the top line of print (not the menu bars) on your monitor screen. It is also acceptable for the top line of print to fall within 10 or 15 degrees lower than your line of sight. If you wear bifocals, your monitor will need to be a bit lower than this to prevent you from extending your neck. The whole idea is that you do not extend or flex your neck -- keep your head balanced directly atop your spinal column.

Once implemented, it may take a week or two before you notice some improvement or you may even notice improvement right away.

An excellent publication by WorkSafeBC, "Understanding the Risks of Musculoskeletal Injury (MSI)," is available online through www.worksafebc.com . The booklet contains many pointers on achieving a good ergonomic workstation set-up.

Ergonomic resources

As the pandemic continues, many of us find ourselves working in new environments.  You may be performing different tasks or using different equipment and should be conscious of your comfort. 

Ergonomics is the practice of designing someone’s workstation to fit his or her individual needs.  As standard office equipment varies to reflect multiple uses, it is beneficial to make individualized adjustments to fit every person’s body shape and job demands.

Our Occupational Health & Safety Coordinator has many resources available to help ensure your workstation fits you and the job you are doing.

Tools and resources

1. Taking Equipment Home

If you are working remotely, having an ergonomically set-up workstation at home is just as important as having one on campus.
Remember that you can request to take certain pieces of equipment home with you, including keyboards, mice, computer monitors, and chairs.

2. Complete an Ergonomic-Self Assessment

A self-assessment tool has been created to help you learn how to position your body in an ergonomically correct manner.

3. Set-up your workstation using the following resources.

Okanagan College, WorkSafeBC and the Manufacturing Safety Alliance have resources that provide workers with guidance and strategies for setting up their workstations.

4. Keep Moving

Ergonomics is not just about the equipment you use, it is also about your movement throughout the day.  People were made to move.  Taking regularly scheduled stretch breaks helps your body.

5. Schedule a virtual ergonomic assessment for remote workstations

If you’re still experiencing discomfort with your at-home workstation setup after using these tools, or require additional help, consider scheduling a virtual ergonomic assessment with our Occupational Health and Safety Coordinator who can assess your current workstation setup and make recommendations and adjustments based on your individual needs.

To request a virtual ergonomic assessment ask your supervisor.

6. Schedule an in-person ergonomic assessment for on campus workstation

If you’re still experiencing discomfort with your on-campus workstation setup after using these tools, or require additional help, consider scheduling an in-person ergonomic assessment with our Occupational Health and Safety Coordinator. They can assess your current workstation setup in person and make recommendations and adjustments based on your individual needs.

To request an in-person ergonomic assessment ask your supervisor for an in-person ergonomic assessment.