We’ve probably all experienced a stiff neck or a sore back from sitting all day, and it’s no fun. With proper ergonomics, however, such ailments can often be alleviated.
Good ergonomics in the workplace, will enhance employee comfort and increase productivity. Ergonomics is essentially the science of adapting a job or position to specifically fit the worker - and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has taken on a leading role in helping promote and advocate for such environments.
In this post, we'll take a closer look at OSHA's ergonomics guidelines for a healthy workplace:
OSHA Ergonomic Guidelines Explained
While there is no OSHA standard for ergonomics, there are guidelines and some general rules.
You can find information via OSHA's General Duty Clause, which states that employers are required to ensure a workplace free from hazard, including those that could be the result of poor ergonomics. Doing so may consist of performing a job hazard analysis and then implementing a program to address any hazards that are discovered.
Designing for Ergonomics
Like we said above, OSHA's guidelines are just that - guidelines. So when a company is designing ergonomic solutions for a customer, it's typical to follow these guidelines.
However, it's also worth noting that the requests for ergonomic solutions are mostly dictated directly by the customer.
OSHA Ergonomic Workstation Checklist
While there are no specific office ergonomics standards, there are a variety of best practices that employers can promote in the workplace. Here's a look at some suggestions and general tips:
- Maintaining good posture
- Using ergonomic accessories
- Taking frequent breaks
- Changing positions throughout the day
Ergonomics is all about unlocking good posture, whether that means finding the ideal desk position or adjusting your chair appropriately.
It is important to remember to factor in adequate clearance for a worker’s legs under the work surface as well, in order to prevent injury to a knee, leg, or shin.
OSHA-provided guidelines state the minimum depth for knee space is 23.5 inches at knee level and 31.5 inches at toe level; the minimum width for knee space is 27 inches.
Another prime consideration is the positioning of your computer keyboard and mouse for comfort and productivity. Ideally, you want to stay centered, avoid "T-Rex" typing and ensure the top of your computer screen (or screens) is at eye level.
When it comes to desk ergonomics OSHA recommends, there are many solutions to select from to enhance comfort and posture in the office. These include devices like:
- Keyboard trays
- Sit-stand desks
- Monitor arms
- CPU trolleys
Guidelines also suggest the upper arm and forearm should be approximately at a 75-125 degree angle when the operator’s hands are resting on the keyboard. Also, the hands should be positioned in a reasonably straight line with the forearms.
Taking breaks to rest and recharge throughout the day is essential to streamlining productivity. It's suggested that workers try to take short 5-minute breaks every hour or so and longer, 30-minute breaks every 2 to 4 hours to help them stay focused throughout the work day.
Movement throughout the day is a resounding must, especially if your job primarily consists of sitting at a desk behind a computer for most of the day.
Make sure you get up and move around periodically throughout the day. In fact, the 20-8-2 rule is a good one to follow. It means for every half hour you work, you should aim to sit for 20 minutes, stand for 8 minutes and move for 2 minutes.
An Ergonomic Workplace for Optimal Efficiency
This checklist is a pretty good summary of best ergonomic practices for the office, or for a work-from-home setup.
To learn more about how to maximize productivity and improve workplace safety, check out our free ergonomics guide!
(Editor's Note: This blog was originally published in November 2020 and was updated in June 2022 with current information.)