If You're Reading This, You Should Read This

June 14, 1999
Are you spending more and more time staring at your computer screen? Do your workers seem glued to their PC workstations? That may be risky business, warns the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA suggests an ergonomic review of your workstations to reduce the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders associated with awkward postures and repetitive motion. While "ergonomics review" sounds complicated, the agency's advice for making sure workstations fit workers is fairly straightforward.

Here's what OSHA recommends that employers provide:

  • An adjustable chair with good back support and a desk with keyboard, mouse and writing surface at a comfortable height.
  • A document holder at the same height as the computer screen to permit comfortable neck and head positions.
  • Computer screen placed about eye level, 18 to 24 inches from body, to minimize neck strain.
  • Good lighting that minimizes glare.
  • A speaker phone or headset if the job requires extensive telephone use during typing sessions.

The agency also offers these tips:

  • Sit up straight. Keep shoulders relaxed, thighs parallel to the floor and feet flat on the floor.
  • Take frequent "micro" rest breaks. Shift from one sitting position to another. Breathe deeply. Look away from the screen. Focus eyes across the room. Stand up and stretch. Get up and walk to the other side of the office.
  • Exercise—right at the workstation. Stretch out fingers. Raise shoulders. Stretch arms with hands linked together above the head. Repeat exercises several times throughout the day.
  • Hold wrists straight while typing and set the keyboard at elbow height. When not typing, writing or using the mouse relax hands in the lap.
  • Place the mouse next to the keyboard and keep other materials used frequently—such as the telephone and keyboard—close by. Use the full arm, not just the wrist to move the mouse. Switch hands occasionally to give the primary hand a rest.

SOURCE: "Memo to the Boss," available on the ergonomics page on OSHA's Web site at

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion.