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The Ergonomic Workspace: A Whole Body Approach

Your healthy workspace is the sum of many parts. It's a system based on whole body ergonomics, where best angles proper heights and convenient levels all work together to achieve maximum comfort. The way we see it, work shouldn't be a pain. Ever.

Make Sitting A Moving Experience

The human body is designed to be in motion, yet 70% of us sit for hours at work. So how do you position yourself for comfort? Choose office products designed to encourage healthy postural movement, less strain and easier reaching. 

Come To Relax The Back For Office Solutions

There's no reason to let pain interrupt your workday, especially when so many excellent workspace solutions are available from Relax The Back. Find your local store by clicking here and talk to an ergonomic specialist about how to create an ergonomic workspace.



Work In Comfort with a Properly Adjusted Desk


Humanscale® Float Desk| Sit To Stand Desk 55"| Sit To Stand Desk



A well-designed and appropriately-adjusted desk will provide adequate clearance for your legs, allow proper placement of computer components and accessories, and minimize awkward postures and exertions. The installation, setup, and configuration of comfortable and productive workstations involve the following considerations:


Desk or Work Surface Areas


Potential Hazards

Limited space on the work surface may cause users to place components and devices in undesirable positions. This placement may lead to awkward postures as you reach for a pointer/mouse or look at a monitor that is placed to the side.


Possible Solutions

Work surface depth should allow you to: View the monitor at a distance of at least 20 inches (50 cm), and position the monitor to achieve the appropriate viewing angle, which is generally directly in front of you.


Potential Hazard

Some desks and computer equipment have hard, angled leading edges that come in contact with a user's arm or wrist. This can create contact stress, affecting nerves and blood vessels, possibly causing tingling and sore fingers.


Possible Solutions

Pad table edges with inexpensive materials such as pipe insulation, use a wrist rest, and buy furniture with rounded desktop edges.


Areas Under the Desk or Work Surface


Potential Hazard

  • Inadequate clearance or space under the work surface may result from poor design or excessive clutter. Regardless of the cause it can result in discomfort and performance inefficiencies, such as the following:
  • Shoulder, back, and neck pain due to users sitting too far away from computer components, causing them to reach to perform computer tasks; and
  • Generalized fatigue, circulation restrictions, and contact stress due to constriction of movement and inability to frequently change postures.


Possible Solutions

  • Provide, to the extent possible, adequate clearance space for users to frequently change working postures. This space should remain free of items such as files, CPUs, books, and storage.
  • Be sure clearance spaces under all working surfaces accommodates at least two of the three seated reference working postures, one of which must be the upright seated posture.
  • Limit the number of items that are stored under the work surface.


Potential Hazard

Desk surfaces that are too high or too low may lead to awkward postures, such as extended arms to reach the keyboard, and raised shoulders.


Possible Solutions

  • Raise work surfaces by inserting stable risers such as boards or concrete blocks under the desk legs if necessary.
  • Remove center drawers of conventional desks to create additional thigh clearance if necessary.
  • Provide height-adjustable desks. Clearance for the legs, under the desktop, should generally be between 20-28 inches (50-72 cm) high.



OSHA Desk Reference


Work In Comfort with a Properly Adjusted Chair


Executive Chairs| Task Chairs | Mesh Chairs | Kneeling Chairs



A chair that is well designed and appropriately adjusted is an essential element of a safe and productive computer workstation. A good chair provides necessary support while reducing exposures to awkward postures, contact stress, and forceful exertions. 

Increased adjustability ensures a better fit for the user, provides adequate support in a variety of sitting postures, and allows variability of sitting positions throughout the workday. This is particularly important if the chair has multiple users.


The following parts of the chair are important elements to consider in creating a safe and productive workstation:


Back Rest


Potential Hazard – Poor Back Support

Poor back support and inappropriate postures may result from inadequate backrest size, material, positioning, or use. Working in these postures may lead to back pain and fatigue.


Possible Solutions

  • If your current chair does not have a lumbar support, use a rolled up towel or a removable back support cushion to temporarily provide support and maintain the natural curve of the spine.
  • Use a chair with a backrest that is easily adjustable and able to support the back in a variety of seated postures. A backrest should have the following:
  • A lumbar support that is height adjustable so it can be appropriately placed to fit the lower back.
  • An adjustment that allows the user to recline at least 15 degrees from the vertical.
  • A device enabling it to move forward and backward. This will allow shorter users to sit with their backs against the backrest without the front edge of the seat pan contacting their knees. Taller users will be able to sit with their backs against the backrest while still having their buttocks and thighs fully supported.




Potential Hazard - A Seat That is Too High

Using a chair with a seat that is too high may force you to work with your feet unsupported or encourage you to move forward in the chair to a point where your back is unsupported These awkward postures can lead to fatigue, restricted circulation, swelling, numbness, and pain.


Possible Solutions

  • If the seat cannot be lowered use a footrest to provide stable support for the feet
  • Provide a chair with a seat pan that is adjustable and large enough to provide support in a variety of seated postures. It is recommended that the seat should be Height adjustable, especially when shared by a number of users.
  • Padded and have a rounded, "waterfall" edge wide enough to accommodate the majority of hip sizes. Chairs with oversize seat pans should be provided for larger users.


Potential Hazard - Wrong Size Seat Pan

An inappropriately sized seat pan can be uncomfortable, provide inadequate support to the legs, and restrict movement.


Possible Solutions

  • Seat pan should be "depth" adjustable to adequately support taller users while allowing shorter users to sit with their back fully supported.
  • Provide a footrest, which may elevate the knee slightly to relieve pressure on the back of the leg.


Arm Rest


Potential Hazards – Improperly Adjusted Armrests

  • Armrests that are not adjustable, or those that have not been properly adjusted, may expose you to awkward postures or fail to provide adequate support.
  • Armrests that are made of hard materials or that have sharp corners can irritate the nerves and blood vessels located in the forearm. This irritation can create pain or tingling in the fingers, hand, and arm.


Possible Solutions

  • If your armrests cannot be properly adjusted, or if they interfere with your workstation, remove them, or stop using them.
  • Position adjustable armrests so they support your lower arm and allow your upper arm to remain close to the torso.
  • Armrests should be large enough to support most of your lower arm but small enough so they do not interfere with chair positioning.
  • Armrests should be made of a soft material and have rounded edges.




Potential Hazard – Unstable Chair

  • Chairs with four or fewer legs may provide inadequate support and are prone to tipping.
  • Inappropriate choice of casters, or a chair without casters, can make positioning the chair in relation to the desk difficult. This increases reaching and bending to access computer components, which can lead to muscle strain, and fatigue.


Possible Solutions

  • Chairs should have a strong, five-legged base.
  • Ensure that chairs have casters that are appropriate for the type of flooring at the workstation.



OSHA Chair Reference


Work In Comfort with a Properly Adjusted Keyboard


ErgoTravel Keyboard | Adjustable Split Keyboard | EasyLift Dial Tilt Keyboard



Proper selection and arrangement of the computer keyboard helps reduce exposure to awkward postures, repetition, and contact stress.

 Consider the following factors when evaluating your computer workstation.


Keyboard Placement-Height


Potential Hazard

Keyboards that are too high or too low can lead to awkward wrist, arm, and shoulder postures. Performing keying tasks in awkward postures such as these can result in hand, wrist, and shoulder discomfort.


Possible Solutions

  • Adjust the chair height and work surface height to maintain a neutral body posture. Elbows should be about the same height as the keyboard and hang comfortably to the side of the body. Shoulders should be relaxed, and wrists should not bend up or down or to either side during keyboard use.
  • A keyboard tray may be needed if the work surface or chair cannot be properly adjusted. The keyboard tray should:
  • Be adjustable in height and tilt,
  • Provide adequate leg and foot clearance, and
  • Have adequate space for multiple input devices.
  • The keyboard's vertical position should be maintained within the recommended range. The tilt of the keyboard may need to be raised or lowered to maintain straight, neutral wrist postures while accommodating changes in arm angles.


Keyboard Placement – Distance

Potential Hazard

A keyboard that is too close or too far away may cause you to assume awkward postures such as reaching with the arms, leaning forward with the torso, and extreme elbow angles.


Possible Solutions

  • Place the keyboard directly in front of you at a distance that allows your elbows to stay close to your body with your forearms approximately parallel with the floor.
  • A keyboard tray may be useful if you have limited desk space or if your chair has armrests that interfere with adequate positioning.


Design and Use


Potential Hazard

A traditional keyboard may cause you to bend your wrists sideways to reach all the keys. Keyboard tilt, caused by extending the legs on the back of the keyboard or by a steep design angle, may cause the wrist to bend upward. Smaller keyboards, such as those found on laptops, may also contribute to stressful postures. These awkward wrist postures can create contact stress to the tendon sheath and tendons that must move within the wrist during repetitive keying.


Possible Solutions

  • Reduce awkward wrist angles by lowering or raising the keyboard or chair to achieve a neutral wrist posture.
  • Elevate the back or front of keyboards to achieve a neutral wrist posture.
  • Consider alternative keyboards to promote neutral wrist postures. Users may need time to become accustomed to these devices. Note: Alternative keyboards help maintain neutral wrist postures, but available research does not provide conclusive evidence that using these keyboards prevents discomfort and injury.
  • Keyboards should be of appropriate size and key-spacing to accommodate most users. Generally, the horizontal spacing between the centers of two keys should be 0.71-0.75 inches (18-19 mm) and the vertical spacing should be between 0.71-0.82 inches (18-21 mm).


Left Hand Key Usage


Potential Hazard

Most keyboards are manufactured with a 10 key keypad permanently affixed to the right side of the keyboard.


Possible Solutions

Alternative left hand keyboards which have the keypad permanently affixed to the left side of the keyboard are available as are keyboards with a detached keypad.



OSHA Keyboard Reference


Work In Comfort with a Properly Adjusted Monitor


Monitor: Humanscale Monitor Arm

Tablet: Cricket Tablet Stand | Spinning iPad Holder | Spinning iPad 2 Holder | Monitor Mount iPad Holder | Tablet Swing Arm |



Choosing a suitable monitor and placing it in an appropriate position helps reduce exposure to forceful exertions, awkward postures, and overhead glare. This helps prevent possible health effects such as excessive fatigue, eye strain, and neck and back pain.

 Consider the following issues to help improve your computer workstation:


Viewing Distance


Potential Hazards

  • Monitors placed too close or too far away may cause you to assume awkward body positions that may lead to eyestrain.
  • Viewing distances that are too long can cause you to lean forward and strain to see small text. This can fatigue the eyes and place stress on the torso because the backrest is no longer providing support.
  • Viewing distances that are too short may cause your eyes to work harder to focus (convergence problems) and may require you to sit in awkward postures.



Possible Solutions

  • Sit at a comfortable distance from the monitor where you can easily read all text with your head and torso in an upright posture and your back supported by your chair. Generally, the preferred viewing distance is between 20 and 40 inches (50 and 100 cm) from the eye to the front surface of the computer screen. Note: Text size may need to be increased for smaller monitors.
  • Provide adequate desk space between the user and the monitor (table depth). If there is not enough desk space, consider doing the following:


Viewing Angle-Height and Side-to-Side


Potential Hazard

  • Working with your head and neck turned to the side for a prolonged period loads neck muscles unevenly and increases fatigue and pain.
  • A display screen that is too high or low will cause you to work with your head, neck, shoulders, and even your back in awkward postures.
  • Bifocal users typically view the monitor through the bottom portion of their lenses. This causes them to tilt the head backward to see a monitor that may otherwise be appropriately placed. As with a monitor that is too high, this can fatigue muscles that support the head.



Possible Solutions

  • The top of the monitor should be at or slightly below eye level. The center of the computer monitor should normally be located 15 to 20 degrees below horizontal eye level.
  • The entire visual area of the display screen should be located so the downward viewing angle is never greater than 60 degrees when you are in any of the four reference postures.
  • Remove some or all of the equipment (computer case, surge protector, etc.) on which the monitor may be placed.
  • Elevate your line of sight by raising your chair.
  • Position your computer monitor directly in front of you, so your head, neck and torso face forward when viewing the screen. Monitors should not be farther than 35 degrees to the left or right.
  • Lower the monitor (below recommendations for non-bifocal users) so you can maintain appropriate neck postures. You may need to tilt the monitor screen up toward you.
  • Raise the chair height until you can view the monitor without tilting your head back.


Viewing Clarity


Potential Hazard

  • Monitors that are tilted significantly either toward or away from the operator may distort objects on the screen, making them difficult to read. Also, when the monitor is tilted back, overhead lights may create glare on the screen


    Possible Solutions

  • Tilt the monitor so it is perpendicular to your line of sight, usually by tilting the screen no more than 10 to 20 degrees.
  • Monitor support surfaces should allow the user to modify viewing distances and tilt and rotation angles.



OSHA Monitor Reference


Work In Comfort with a Properly Adjusted Mouse


Pointers: Goldtouch Ergo Mouse



Pointing devices such as a mouse now come in many sizes, shapes, and configurations. Selection and placement of a pointer/mouse is an important factor in creating a safe computer workstation. 

Consider the following factors when evaluating your computer workstation.


Pointer Placement


Potential Hazard

If the pointer/mouse is not near the keyboard you may be exposed to awkward postures, contact stress, or forceful hand exertions while using the device. Working in this position for prolonged periods places stress on the shoulder and arm and increases the likelihood that you will assume awkward wrist and shoulder postures, which may lead to musculoskeletal disorders.


Possible Solutions

  • Position the pointer/mouse to allow you to maintain a straight, neutral wrist posture. If the keyboard tray/surface is not large enough to accommodate both the keyboard and mouse, try one of the following to limit reaching:
  • Use a mouse platform positioned over the keyboard. This design allows the mouse to be used above the 10-key pad.
  • Install a mouse tray next to the keyboard tray.
  • Use a keyboard that has a pointing device, such as a touch pad, incorporated into it.
  • Use a keyboard without a ten-key pad, which leaves more room for the pointer/mouse.
  • Install keyboard trays that are large enough to hold both the keyboard and mouse.
  • Use a mouse pad with a wrist/palm rest to promote neutral wrist posture.
  • Substitute keystrokes for mouse tasks, such as Ctrl+S to save, and Ctrl+P to print.


Pointer Size, Shape, and Settings


Potential Hazard

Inappropriate size and shape of pointers can increase stress, cause awkward postures, and lead to overexertion. Using the left hand to operate a device that is designed for right-hand use can also create force and posture issues and may create contact stress to the soft tissue areas in the palm of the hand. Contact stress can create irritation and inflammation.


Possible Solutions

  • Select a pointing device designed to fit the hand that will normally operate it. Many devices are available in right hand/left hand models and also come in sizes to fit large and small hands. A device that is designed for either hand use may be desirable, since changing from right- to left-hand operation provides periods of rest for one hand.
  • Select pointing devices that are appropriately sized and that require minimal force to generate movement. Reduce the strain on hands by reducing pointing device use. Using keyboard functions, such as page down, may reduce mouse use and provide rest for hand and arm muscles.
  • Use another type of device that fits the hand better or doesn't require bending the wrist while gripping.


Potential Hazard

When the sensitivity for the input device is not appropriately set, you may need to use excessive force and awkward hand postures to control the device. Exerting prolonged force or repeatedly bending the wrist can fatigue the muscles of the hand and arm and increase the risk of musculoskeletal injuries


Possible Solutions

  • Sensitivity and speed should feel comfortable and be adjustable. The pointer should be able to cover the full screen while the wrist is maintained in a straight, neutral posture.
  • Avoid tightly gripping the mouse or pointing device to maintain control.


A trackball's exposed surface area should be at least 100 degrees. It should feel comfortable and rotate in all directions to generate any combination of movement.



OSHA Mouse Reference