Computer Workstation Ergonomic Handbook

County of Fresno Personnel Services- Risk Management Revised – December 1999


We are grateful to the following County and State Agencies, and private corporations for their assistance in the development of this handbook: The County of Fresno's Sheriff's Department The California Department of Water Resources The California Department of Toxic Substances Control The Fresno Bee Hewlett Packard USAA Insurance Company Special thanks to Kim Haisch, student intern of Golden State University, for compiling this valuable resource for the State of California and ultimately the County of Fresno.


Injury and Illness Prevention Program Section Section 5110.PURPOSE It is the County of Fresno's policy to provide its employees with a safe and healthy workplace. comfortably and according to established guidelines. To increase awareness of how poor work habits and improper posture contribute to muscular discomfort and potential injury.3. 6400. AUTHORITY The legal/regulatory authority for these guidelines is based on: • • Labor Codes 142. Repetitive Motion Injuries American National Standards for Human Factors Engineering of Visual Display Work Terminal Workstations (ANSI/HFS 100-1988) • 3 . To provide employees with exercises that address common VDT workstation complaints and should help to reduce workstation related injuries. California Code of Regulations. To provide employees with guides and checklist to enable them to arrange and adjust their workstation equipment safely. 6401.6401.7 Title 8. The purpose of this guide is to: To educate employees that they share in the responsibility for their comfort and prevention of injury. 6357. Section 3203. This handbook reflects General Industry Safety guidelines for safe workstation arrangements for employees who work at Video Display Terminals (VDTs).

job functions and the physicalworking environment.INTRODUCTION The computer workstation with the Video Display Terminal (VDT) has revolutionized the workplace. It plays a major role in increasing individual and organizational productivity and efficiency. equipment. Just as the computer has changed the way many people work. including proper posture and reasonable equipment adjustments. work methods. With the increase in the number of injuries that have resulted from work at computer workstations. the equipment they use and the work they are required to perform. Ergonomics considers the physical capacities and limits of the employee as he or she interacts with tools. the County of Fresno has developed this handbook to help enable employees to work more comfortably and to reduce the potential for injury. It is every supervisor's responsibility to ensure all employees understand and follow these guidelines. 4 . Employees are responsible for adjusting their workstations and their work habits to prevent injury. Proper workstation use. will help prevent musculoskeletal and visual problems. it is becoming increasingly necessary for users to change the way they interact with them. with attention to muscle and eye fatigue. By applying ergonomic principles. we can arrive at the best possible fit between our employees.

Adjust the seat height for adequate leg clearance under the workstation and keep the keyboard at approximately elbow level. Adjust the monitor so the top of the screen is at or just below eye level and ensure a viewing distance of between 18 and 24 inches. Source: Hewlett Packard 5 . Use a document holder that places documents at the same height and distance as the monitor.CHAIR & WORKSTATION GUIDELINES Adjusting Your Chair and Workstation * Adjust the lumbar (lower back) support by moving the back rest up or down to match the inward curve of your spine. * * * * Note: Periodically reassess and adjust your body posture. Adjust the tilt of the backrest and/or seat to keep your body supported in an upright position.

Keep your elbows close to your body. * * * * • Note: Periodically reassess and adjust your body posture. Keep your wrists in a neutral position. Source: Hewlett Packard 6 . Keep your knees at the same level as your hips or slightly higher. Keep fingers in a relaxed position when working. bent no more than 10 degrees up or down. Keep your feet flat on the floor or supported by a footrest.PROPER BODY POSTURE Adjusting Your Body Posture * * * Keep your head in line with your shoulders and hips. A keyboard tray for fixed work surfaces and padded wrist rests can be used to help support the wrists in a neutral position. Avoid extreme finger extensions.

Source documents should be at the same height. Keep frequently used materials within easy reach. If you use a task lamp. as light changes during the day. * If you frequently use a telephone while at your computer. * * * LIGHTING Glare is the reflection on your screen that makes it hard to see the screen clearly. 7 . * Tilt the VDT screen down slightly to avoid overhead light from producing glare. such as overhead fluorescent lights and/or task lamps. * * If possible. sit with ceiling lights to the side.WORK MATERIALS A well-organized and properly arranged workstation can help prevent muscle strain while improving efficiency. and distance from your eyes as the computer screen to avoid repeated head turning and frequent refocusing. or blinds if necessary. Simple lighting adjustments can help minimize glare and reduce or eliminate eyestrain and headaches. Clear the floor under your workstation so you can move your feet. * Close shades. or by inside light. Glare can be caused by sunlight on your screen. * Position the screen so it is at a right angle to the window producing the glare. angle. position it to aim the light at your document instead of your screen. A document holder can be attached to the side of the monitor to keep documents next to the screen and provide additional desk space. within 14 to 18 inches. consider using a headset or a "hands-free" telephone. Cradling a receiver on your shoulder contributes to muscle strain and nerve damage. curtains. rather than directly overhead.

VISION CARE Viewing a computer monitor for long periods can cause visual fatigue and eyestrain. blurring of vision. Preventive measures should be taken to ensure correct vision for this type of work. burning or pain. Contact lens wearers should blink often to prevent their eyes from becoming dry. The disorders can involve nerves. * Consider attaching an anti-glare apparatus to the VDT if you are unable to eliminate glare by other means. * * REPETITIVE MOTION INJURIES (RMIs) Repetitive Motion Injuries (RMIs) are caused by repeated motions and exertions. blood vessels or tendons. 8 . Characters on the screen should be clear. The arms and hands are especially vulnerable. and free from perceptible flicker. stable. A licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist who is familiar with the visual demands of VDT work should perform eye exams. * Periodically clean your screen to maximize clarity. * * Frequent eye breaks are necessary during the workday.* To improve your viewing comfort. Symptoms of visual fatigue are eye irritation. you may also need to adjust your display's contrast and brightness controls. Eye exams are covered under the County of Fresno health plans. * The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends employees have periodic eye examinations. and double images. which connect muscles to bones. Periodically focusing on an object at least twenty feet away will give your eyes a rest.

Without rest and sufficient time for healing. With further exertion. the sheaths that surround the tendons in the narrow tunnel can swell and press against the nerve. * * 9 . and body posture if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Tendinitis: Inflammation of a tendon from repeated tensing. When irritated. Risk Management is also available to provide assistance if the problems persist. Repeated motions may stimulate the sheath to produce excess fluid. shiny palms and clumsiness of the affected hand Changes in sensation and power to squeeze things Your workstation should be re-evaluated by you and your supervisor for proper work habits. yet no physical evidence of swelling Numbness in the thumb or hand Tingling in the thumb or hand Pain in the fingers or hand Weakness in hand or arm Burning sensation in the hand or arm Weakening of the muscle at the base of the thumb Dry. numbness and tingling in the first three fingers and the base of the thumb. workstation adjustments. TYPES OF RMIs * Carpal tunnel syndrome: A nerve disorder resulting from entrapment of the median nerve where it passes from the forearm through the carpal tunnel in the wrist and into the hand. some of the fibers that make up the tendon can fray or tear. Tenosynovitis: Inflammation of a tendon and its enveloping sheath. which accumulates and exerts pressure on the tendon and causes pain.RMI SYMPTOMS * * * * * * * * * Swollen feeling of the fingers. the tendon may be permanently weakened. Symptoms include pain. The symptoms often are worse at night. and the tendon may become thick and bumpy.

Symptoms include tingling and numbness in the small and ring fingers. toasters. there do not appear to be any exposures that would put VDT users at risk for reproductive health problems.*Thoracic outlet syndrome: Compression of the nerves and blood vessels between the neck and shoulder. RADIATION CONCERNS Like other common electrical devices (irons. Currently there is no occupational exposure standard specifically for VDTs within the United States. fluorescent lights). Symptoms include numbness in the fingers and tingling in the arm. Presently. including leaning on the elbow on hard or sharp surfaces for long periods. All measurements of radiation emissions from VDTs are far below the National Occupation Exposure Guidelines and Standards for radiation. * * 10 . * Ulnar neuritis: A nerve inflammation that results from pressure on the ulnar nerve over time. Food and Drug Administration studies agree VDTs emit little or no harmful radiation under normal operating conditions. TVs. * Both the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the U. Reporting Injuries/Illnesses If you suffer from any of the symptoms of an RMI that you think may be work related.S. VDTs can produce some kinds of radiation. report it to your supervisor.

To be most effective. stretching.) Experts also suggest brief. mind. a break should be taken prior to the onset of fatigue. (Check with your supervisor for your break schedule. Breaks from VDT work can help keep your eyes. and body refreshed and energized. frequent "micro-breaks. * Note: The timing of such micro-breaks is more important than the duration. rather than a means of recuperating from it. They don't involve leaving your workstation. Suggestions include moving around.WORK HABITS Even the best posture and the most ergonomically correct workstation won't prevent muscular stress and fatigue if you sit for several hours in one position. etc." These breaks are defined as time spent doing something other than work on a computer. refocusing your eyes. doing non-computer tasks. * NIOSH recommends taking a short break every couple of hours of uninterrupted computer work. GENERAL BENEFITS OF EXERCISE * * * * * Increased circulation Increased alertness and concentration Improved posture by increasing body awareness Improved potential to prevent and/or eliminate muscle and joint pain Improved potential to prevent RMIs 11 .

look away from the computer screen. Focus on an object at least twenty feet away. * * Look Away * * • Every 1/2-hour. Look back at the screen. Repeat this three times. Hold for a minute. Repeat this step three times. while simultaneously breathing deeply in and out. Slowly roll them all the way around counter-clockwise. Cup your hands and place them lightly over your closed eyes.EYE EXERCISES Cup Them * * * * Lean your elbows on your desk. Repeat this three times. Roll Them * Close your eyes and slowly roll your eyeballs clockwise all the way around. Slowly open your eyes away from a direct source of light. 12 . Slowly uncover your eyes. then look away and focus again.

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For example: work. such as: monitor stands. such as removing large numbers of staples. an employer can provide: * Adjustable workstations or modular furniture with separate components. binders can also be used for a document holder with binder clips to hold the source documents. golf. keyboard trays. A: 15 . such as tennis. You should set up your work area and develop habits that create the least amount of resistance to your muscles. in addition to VDT work. baseball. chopping. hobbies. and sports. and mechanical work. such as binders can be used for a footrest. and making jewelry. a rolled towel can be used for a wrist rest. can cause RMIs? Any activity that requires the body to remain in the same position and repeat the same mechanical motion many times. How can I prevent RMIs? RMIs can be prevented and/or minimized by taking rest breaks and using proper stretching exercises. racquetball. such as gardening. stable objects can be used to raise monitors and keyboards. What ergonomic equipment can an employer provide? Within financial constraints. and a rolled towel may also be used as a lumbar support. as long as it places the wrist in the proper position. needle work.FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS Q: A: What other activities. and document holders Ergonomically designed chairs Wrist rests for the keyboard and mouse Mouse pads VDT anti-glare screens and hoods Q: A: Q: A: * * * * Q: What can I use to adjust my workstation in the absence of proper accessories? Wedged objects. nerves and tendons.

Q: A: What should I do if I have tried everything in these guidelines and I still have RMI symptoms? Discuss the specific problems with your supervisor and your Department Safety Coordinator. 16 . if you return to unsafe workstations. menopause. unsafe work practices. oral contraceptives. A partial list is included at the end of this handbook. Q: A: What non-occupational factors contribute to RMIs? The following non-occupational factors contribute to RMIs: * * * * * * Q: A: Q: A: Systemic diseases Congenital defects Acute trauma Pregnancy. and/or unsafe sports activities. If the problems persist. and strength Can carpal tunnel syndrome recur? Yes. contact the Risk Management Division at 488-3360 for assistance. There are also several publications on the subject available through the library systems. shape. Where can I get additional information on ergonomics and RMIs? A Safety Specialist at the Risk Management Division or your Department Safety Coordinator. and gynecological surgery Vitamin B-6 deficiency Wrist size.FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS (Continued) Q: A: Who can perform workstation evaluations? Your Department Safety Coordinator and/or your functional area/immediate supervisor using these guidelines and the checklist at the end of this handbook.

______ 4. neutral position. Adjust the chair height so the thighs are parallel to the floor and the feet (heels) are flat on the floor. Bend at the elbow and keep wrists in a straight. ______ 2. Use a footrest. Adjust the height of the back of the chair to fit comfortably against the curvature of the spine. ______ 8 Make sure the chair has been adjusted properly. ______ 9 Contact your supervisor if furniture adjustments need to be made. Sitting in neutral position. if necessary. relax shoulders and arms and allow them to "hang" as they would when standing. ______ 7. 17 . Use a lumbar support device. ______ 6. Proper work surface height for reading/writing may be one-to-two inches higher than that for keyboard typing. Take measurements from the floor to the bottom of the palm. Sit firmly back in chair. ______ 3. This distance should be the desk height measured to the top of the work surface. Work Surface Height ______ 5. Adjust the slant of the back of the chair to provide support for an upright relaxed posture. if necessary.WORKSTATION CHECKLIST (A checkmark next to an item indicates the appropriate action was taken) Chairs ______ 1.

telephone. The top of the screen should not be above eye level. If a headset is not feasible. it should be flush with the desk edge. ______ 16. etc. monitor. Place the telephone on the desktop closest to where you work the most frequently. ______ 17. ______ 18 ______ 19.elbows on corners. if necessary. ______ 21. ______ 25. ______ 22.the monitor too far away from the eyes. reposition yourself. Position the screen to minimize glare from various light sources. Use a document holder. ______ 15.WORKSTATION CHECKLIST (Continued) Organize Work Areas ______ 10. Use a light touch with the keyboard. Clean the screen regularly. Telephone ______ 24. Place overhead/hanging bins as close as possible. Corner placement presents the following problems by placing: * . ensure your neck is not stretched in one direction for extended periods. Put all frequently used files within close reach. ______ 13. calendar.g. If a wrist rest is used. Applications should promote a relaxed hand position on the keyboard Place the monitor screen 18-to-24 inches away. Use a headset if extended phone time is required. e. ______ 23. Pull the keyboard to the desk edge and keep it flat. The height of the monitor should be so the top of the screen is at or slightly below eye level when sitting at the keyboard. DO NOT TWIST YOUR TORSO OR TRUNK while reaching for items. Turn to face work materials. ______ 14. thereby bending one's wrists. Place most commonly used items. ______ 12. DO NOT reach for and remove large binders from bins while seated. switch sides. ______ 20. within easy reach.and the keyboard across corners. computer keyboard. adding machine. Do not use the heel of the hand on the keyboard or work surface. 18 . which promotes uneven wrist pressure. * . DO NOT put the computer (monitor or keyboard) in a corner unless the desk corner is specifically designed for a computer. overhead bins. * . ______ 11.

S. Channing L. Bete Co. Krames Communications. U. Krames Communications..SOURCES VDT Ergonomics: Arranging Your Workstation To Fit You. CAL OSHA’s Four Step Program for Employers with Video Display Terminal (VDT) Operators. About Working With VDTs. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 1986. VDT Ergonomics: Exercises At Your Workstation. Inc.. 1998. 1984. 19 . 1993. Working With VDTs: The Human Interface. Krames Communications. 1986. Working Safely With Video Display Terminals. Department of Labor. 1993.

NOTES VDT Handbook 20 .

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