AMERICAN SOCIETY OF SAFETY ENGINEERS OFFERS ERGONOMIC TIPS FOR
DES PLAINES, IL (March 28, 2002) - With workplace musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
being the single largest occupational safety and health problem in the U.S. according
to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the American Society
of Safety Engineers (ASSE) urges employers to develop and implement now an
effective ergonomic system to reduce those injuries. An initial investment in ergonomic
programs removes barriers to quality, productivity and human performance by fitting products,
tasks, and environments to people and in the long run will save millions later.
"Increased productivity, reduced workers' compensation and health claims and a decline
in the number of lost work-days are just a few of the benefits realized," Eddie Greer,
ASSE president, said today. "Efficient ergonomic systems are a valuable asset for
business and increases the U.S.' ability to compete in a rapidly changing
Last year Congress overturned the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration's
(OSHA) ergonomic standard. ASSE supported the adoption of a federal standard, but did not
agree with all of the components of the OSHA standard (see ASSE ergonomic policy at www.asse.org).
However, ASSE and its 30,000 members who are occupational safety, health and environmental
professionals, acknowledge that many industries, but not enough, long ago foresaw
the positive benefits for their workers and their bottom line and implemented successful ergonomic
ASSE recognizes that there is no one-size-fits all approach to ergonomics, but recommends the
following tips to increase safety and comfort in the workplace:
For the home office:
- A chair should have a five point star base for stability, an adjustable backrest
angle, height, and depth) that provides lumbar support and an adjustable seat pan
height, forward and backward, and tilt angle). Armrests should be padded, adjustable up and down,
in and out and swivel (e.g., like a wrist rest). The edge of the seat pan should be at least
four inches from the soft tissue area behind the knee.
- The top of a computer display screen should be slightly below eye level (20°).
- A document holder that is the same height and distance from the user as the
display screen should be provided when the primary task is data entry.
- Keyboards should be detachable and adjustable to allow straight/parallel hand-forearm posture.
This is often accomplished using a wrist rest. ASSE experts recommend that the height of the wrist
rest should equal the home row key height. Fingers on the home row of a keyboard should be
approximately 0 to +1.5 inches above the elbow rest height. The keyboard slope should be no greater
- A desk or tabletop should allow legroom for posture adjustments for the seated worker while
also providing a 90° angle of the elbow and the work surface. The same is also true regarding
the elbow angle for the sit/stand and the standing user.
- For lighting and glare the characters on the computer screen should be brighter than the
screen background. Bright light sources in the peripheral field of the computer screen should
be avoided. The computer screen should be positioned to avoid glare. By adjusting the window
shades and moving or tilting the terminal can help avoid glare and screen reflections.
- For posture the head should be tilted 15° forward or less to maintain a vertical position.
The elbows should be kept close to the body or supported. The lumbar curve of the back should be maintained.
Feet should never be allowed to dangle and should always be supported.
- Dry eye can occur because people tend to blink less when viewing monitors. Due to this, fatigue
can also set in.
- Be wary of falls that could occur when reaching high shelves and storage, and tripping on
cables, wires, ironing cords, toys, fans, etc.
- Floor surfaces should be in good condition -- carpets not torn or frayed and be affixed to the
floor or have slip resistance pads underneath them.
- Avoid having heated surfaces such as coffee makers, hot plates and portable heaters in the office
as they could trigger a fire.
- Be aware that in older homes, the existing electrical circuits may not be able to handle
the additional electrical load from fax machines, computers, scanners and other office equipment
as well as air conditioning units used explicitly in the office.
- Have a licensed/bonded electrician inspect the home electrical system and upgrade it if necessary
to assure the current protection and load will meet demands.
- Develop a fire evacuation plan (such as installing a ladder as an escape route if your office
is on the second floor).
- Move desks closer to power outlets and phone jacks --- or install new outlets. Make sure
installed fire extinguishers are acceptable for multiple exposures.
Founded in 1911, the non-profit ASSE is the oldest and largest professional safety organization
and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Contact ASSE's at
www.asse.org for more information on workplace safety. ASSE has available for sale through its web site
"An Ergonomics Guide to Hand Tools" (order #10110), "Ergonomics: How to Design for Ease and
Efficiency" (order #10203), "Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics" (order #9804), and
"Manual Material Handling: Understanding and Preventing Back Trauma" (order #10111).