Sitting at the Computer

Millions of people work with computers every day. This article explains simple, inexpensive principles that will help you create a safe and comfortable computer workstation. There is no single “correct” posture or arrangement of components that will fit ev­eryone. However, there are basic design goals, to consider when setting up a computer worksta­tion or performing computer-related tasks.

To understand the best way to set up a com­puter workstation, it’s helpful to understand the concept of neutral body positioning. This is a comfortable working posture in which your joints are naturally aligned. Working with the body in a neutral position reduces stress and strain on the muscles, tendons, and skeletal sys­tem and reduces your risk of developing a mus­culoskeletal disorder (MSD). The following are important considerations when attempting to maintain neutral body postures while working at the computer workstation:

• Hands, wrists, and forearms are straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor.

• Head is level, or bent slightly forward, forward facing, and balanced. Generally it is in-line with the torso.

• Shoulders are relaxed and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.

• Elbows stay in close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.

• Feet are fully supported by the floor or a footrest may be used if the desk height is not adjustable.

• Back is fully supported with appropri­ate lumbar support when sitting vertical or lean­ing back slightly.

• Thighs and hips are supported by a well-padded seat and generally parallel to the floor.

• Knees are about the same height as the hips with the feet slightly forward.

Regardless of how good your working pos­ture is, working in the same position or sitting still for prolonged periods isn’t healthy. You should change your working position frequently throughout the day by: 1) making small adjust­ments to your chair or backrest; 2) stretching your fingers, hands, arms, and torso; and 3) standing and walking around for a few minutes periodically.

SOURCE: The United States Department of La­bor; photo from Integrated Safety Management, Berkeley Lab.