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Ergonomics is the scientific, interdisciplinary study of individuals and their physical
relationship to the work environment.
Just as computers have changed the way we work, it is becoming increasingly necessary
for us to change the way we operate them. There are concerns over the proper and safe use
of computer equipment to prevent injury. Safe computer use, including body posture, typing
and mousing methods, and workstation adjustments will help prevent musculoskeletal
In addition to musculoskeletal problems, computer users may experience temporary
symptoms such as eye strain, burning eyes, blurred vision, focusing difficulties, and
headaches. (see Vision & Eye Strain)
The major causes of strain are:
- Poor body alignment - take the time to set up your work environment to fit you.
- Prolonged positions - take a short break every 20 minutes or so to shift positions,
- Repetitive movements - try to vary your work, so that you use different muscles.
- Inadequate vision - strains posture as well as eyes - check eyes annually, you may need
Work performed at computers typically require you to hold yourself still, in static
postures, for considerable periods of time while involving small, frequent, repetitive
movements of the eyes, head, arms, and fingers. Retaining a fixed posture over long
periods of time requires a significant static holding force, which causes fatigue.
Proper work station design is very important in eliminating these types of problems.
Some variables of work station design include the computer table, chair, and document
holder. Your work station should provide you with a comfortable sitting position that is
sufficiently flexible to reach, use, and observe the display screen, keyboard, and related
documents. Some general considerations to minimize fatigue include posture support (back,
arms, legs, and feet), and adjustable display screens and keyboards. Computer tables or
desks should be vertically adjustable to allow for operator adjustment of the screen and
keyboard. Proper chair height and support to the lower region of the back are critical
factors in reducing fatigue and related musculoskeletal complaints. Document holders also
allow the operator to position and view material without straining the eyes, neck,
shoulder, and back muscles.
Following below are a collection of hyperlinks to a variety of websites dealing with
additional ergonomic and associated issues relating to avoiding and dealing with RSIs in
the office environment.
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Based Ergonomics™ Keyboard Retraining, Norman J. Kahan, MD, and
Over the years, computer-related injuries have increasingly plagued the
modern office workplace, debilitating hundreds of thousands of workers,
causing pain, impairment and, in some cases, disability. The vast majority
of computer-related injuries can be attributed to specific faulty
movements and awkward postures inherent in the act of typing, which may
cause fatigue, inflammation of muscles or tendons, compression or
entrapment of nerves, as well as pain or weakness in the upper limbs and
neck. Recognizing and correcting these movements is at the heart of a new
and emerging field known as keyboard retraining, a largely overlooked but
critical component in the fight against RSI.
Based Ergonomics™ Keyboard Retraining, Part II: "Mousing",
Norman J. Kahan, MD, and Vivienne Griffin
In recent years, the mouse has become an integral tool for most computer
programs as well as for working “on line”. Unfortunately, as computer
users have become more dependent on mouse input devices, the number of
repetitive strain injuries (RSI) related to the mouse has been on the
rise. Most of these injuries can be traced back to both faulty movements
and awkward postures when using the mouse. To complicate matters, the
number of “mice” now include many options, including traditional a two
or three button mouse, (mechanical or optical) trackball, mouse pen, joy
stick, touch pad and glide point. There are even foot and head mice. The
following pitfalls and guidelines apply to whichever mouse you choose to
use. Remember, gadgets alone won’t prevent the development of RSI, but
learning how to use them properly can.
for Laptop Computer Users, Vivienne Griffin, and Norman J. Kahan, MD
Today, many computer users have turned to convenient portable laptops as
either an adjunct to their work stations, or as an alternative to a desk
top computer. Just as desktop computers have specific guidelines and
recommendations for safe and healthy use, so do laptops. The following is
a list of things to consider and try to promote and ensure comfort when
Keyboards- A User Survey by K.S.Wright, MS
Results of a 1996 alternative keyboard user survey representing users of a wide
variety of alternative keyboard brands and types.
Empowering Workers to Prevent Terminal Illness
International Labour Organization: Information Technology and
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Office Ergonomics by Chris Grant, PhD, CPE
This site collects and publishes some "handouts" that have been widely used in
training courses aimed exclusively at office workers, as well as ergonomists who work with
office workers. The handouts have received good reviews with respect to their
clarity, objectivity, and scientific basis. Some have been published in slightly
different form in book chapters and manuals. We are pleased to share them with you.
HealthyComputing.com was founded in 1999 to address the growing problem of computer-related injuries. The brainchild of its three founders, Michael
Abramson, Daniel Eisman, and Alan Hedge, HealthyComputing has since welcomed many of the premier physicians, researchers, and injury prevention consultants from around the country. Today, it is the joint effort of nearly a dozen top Ergonomists, Physicians, and Physical Therapists
IBM - Healthy Computing
IBM's Healthy Computing site includes valuable information on how to organize your
workspace effectively as well as providing some more in-depth human factors research
papers (UK's PC Magazine).
(news) (set up) (vision) (display) (comfort) (environment) (accessories) (other info sources)
Computer Related Repetitive Strain Injury
I am not a health care professional, but I hope on this page to provide a very brief
introduction to RSI for the benefit of students who may not be aware of the potential for
a life-altering injury. It includes book references and links to Internet resources that
have been helpful in educating me about this. Don't hesitate to get in touch by e-mail,
but because I have to limit my own computer use, please take the time to consult the
entire page and the listed materials at length first. -Paul Marxhausen
(RSI & Musicians) (Changes I've Made) (Products & Services) (FindADoc)
University of Virginia - VDT Ergonomics Training and Resources
The following links lead to educational hypermedia and information about defining and
evaluating ergonomic risks, creating ergonomically appropriate workstations and preventing
work-related musculoskeletal disorders (CTD's). These documents have been created by the
members of the UVa Ergonomics Task Force. The information contained within them is
believed to be reliable and current but we make no guarantee and assume no responsibility
as to its absolute correctness for all circumstances. You may reproduce or adapt this
information provided the original meaning is preserved and copies are not offered for
sale. The University of Virginia shall be acknowledged in the copies.
3M's Office Ergonomics Self-Help Site
This educational program teaches the fundamentals of office ergonomics, including
physical, environmental and emotional elements. It suggests improvements that individuals
can apply to customize their workstations and tasks. Since each work situation is unique,
these suggestions are presented only as a guideline.
WorkSpace Resources' Ergonomic Issues
Ergonomics is the study of the human body at work. As a science, it has its roots in the
industrial revolution. The sea change occurring in industry as a result of the growth in
information technology has changed the focus of Ergonomics from factories to offices and
from machines that mimic the human body to machines that mimic the human mind.
University of Texas, Austin The General Libraries' Ergonomics Task Force
This page is an attempt to gather and make available some of the more useful sources of
ergonomics information that are available on the Internet. It is intended to supplement
other documentation or programs that the General Libraries Ergonomics Task Force may
produce or make available for library staff.
ErgoLib for Safer Library Computing
Working in a library can be hard, physical work. And working with computers, mice, and
monitors requires many of the same skills that successful athletes have. Get informed and
start planning your own training program by checking out the following web sites and our
list of quick, cheap tips.
Professional Ergonomic Solutions - Ergonomics 101
Ergonomics 101 is intended to provide you with a quick and effective reference of
Ergonomic information and products currently available.
Tips for Healthy Computer Use!
UCSF/UCB Ergonomics Program's guide to help you set up your computer and develop good work
habits so that you can be productive and comfortable when using the computer.
Carnegie Mellon University EGO's Ergonomics Manual
Repetitive Strain Injuries - The Hidden Cost of Computing
Ergonomics at Work
Combo: Ergonomic & Contract Furnishings
Computer-Related Ergonomics Information and Products
ZDNet on Working at Home which includes Ergonomics
Yahoo - Science : Engineering : Ergonomics
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