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Contact Information

Radiological and
Environmental Management
550 Stadium Mall Drive
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2051

Information: (765) 49-46371
Fax: (765) 49-47403
Office Location: HAMP B173
Campus Mail: REM, HAMP

Page Updated:
April 11, 2014

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Ergonomics

What is Ergonomics?

It is the study of the workplace. Its purpose is to study people in their work environment and make determinations of whether the worker is using his/her work space in the most efficient manner and without risk of injury. REM is currently concentrating on office ergonomics, but is available to do ergonomics in work areas other than offices.

Injuries that can be attributed to poor office ergonomic setup can range from simple discomfort to disabling ailments that have to be remedied by a physician and/or surgery. Some symptoms of discomfort associated with work space setup are:

  • Headache
  • Eye Strain
  • Neck Pain
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Back Pain
  • Arm Pain
  • Wrist Pain
  • Numbing of the Hands and Fingers
  • Leg Discomfort

The following is a short description of the postures that should be maintained while working at a computer work station:

  1. Start with the chair: It should be at a height that allows the feet to be placed flat on the floor with the thighs level or slightly pointed down. There should be no pressure on the back of the thigh. Sit up straight allowing the natural curve of the spine to contour to the lumbar support of the chair. This posture will put the user at the proper sitting height to use the computer.
  2. Next is the keyboard height: Let the arms hang naturally at the sides and bring the forearms up until they are parallel with the floor. With the hands extending naturally from the wrists, move up to the keyboard, the hands should lay naturally on the keys. This is the proper keying height. The wrists should not bend in, out, up, or down, but should maintain a straight line from the top of the forearm across the back of the hand. Do not rest the wrists on the sharp edge of the work station surface while keying.
  3. The last step is to maintain the proper monitor distance and height: Sitting in the keying position, set the distance to the monitor screen at arm's length (this can vary depending on the user's visual acuity). The height of the monitor should be where the eyes look naturally at the top 1/3 of the screen when the head is held level. If the user wears bi or trifocals, the monitor will usually be positioned at a lower level so the user does not have to tilt the head up to view the screen.

With these simple postures in mind, many people can solve their own ergonomic problems when working at a computer work station.

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Purdue University's Ergonomics Program

Developed in 1995, its purpose is to provide the means for university employees to be educated on the effects of ergonomics in their work space and be evaluated ( if necessary) to identify any risk factors that are or could lead to injuries. If changes are required in the work space, REM has limited funding to assist in purchasing equipment to correct the deficiencies. REM purchases are limited to the specific items listed below.

  • Keyboard Trays and connecting hardware
  • Wrist Rests and Mouser Rests
  • Monitor Platforms
  • Document Holders
  • Glare Screens
  • Footrests
  • Chairs

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Ergonomics Assessment Request

  1. Submit an Office Worker Ergonomics Questionnaire. Confirmation that REM received your questionnaire will be sent via email. If you do not receive confirmation within a week, either call REM at 46371 or resubmit your questionnaire.
  2. An on-site assessment will be scheduled when REM receives the questionnaire.
  3. The assessment will be followed-up with an Ergonomic Recommendation Form containing an itemized price list of equipment recommended for purchase.
  4. Return a copy of the Ergonomic Recommendation Form with an authorized signature, date, and account number to REM. In addition, forward a copy to the departmental business office. It is the employee's department's responsibility to order the recommended equipment.
  5. REM will transfer the 50% it pays to the department's account via intramural voucher monthly.

Funding of equipment will be in a 50/50 partnership with departments. Installation of ergonomic equipment and labor costs incurred (keyboard slides, etc.) will be the responsibility of departments through their respective Zone Maintenance personnel. Because REM funding is limited, ergonomic equipment purchases are made on a first-come first-serve basis at the discretion of the REM representative performing the evaluation.

In addition to the services provided by REM, a cross-functional team has been formed with members from the Design Studio/Purchasing, Planning and Engineering, Facilities Services, and REM. Its purpose is to specify equipment and furniture that the University will provide for new facilities and renovations.

For more information concerning ergonomics or to set up a training session please contact REM.

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Ergonomic Computer Workstations

“There is no single “correct” posture or arrangement of components that will fit everyone. However, there are basic design goals.” - OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)

Working Posture:

1. Neutral Posture

Start with the chair: It should be at a height that allows the feet to be placed flat on the floor with the thighs level or slightly pointed down. There should be no pressure on the back of the thigh. Sit up straight allowing the natural curve of the spine to contour to the lumbar support of the chair. This posture will put the user at the proper sitting height to use the computer.

Photograph showing a side view of a worker sitting at a workstation with the correct neutral posture.  Feet are flat on the floor and knees are approximately 4 to 6 inches off the edge of the seat pad.  The natural curve of the spine is kept by sitting up straight with back against the seat back. The back is between 90 and 100 degrees offset from the thighs. The angle between the thighs and knees is also 90-100 degrees.

2. Keyboard Height

Let the arms hang naturally at the sides and bring the forearms up until they are parallel with the floor. With the hands extending naturally from the wrists, move up to the keyboard, the hands should lay naturally on the keys. This is the proper keying height. The wrists should not bend in, out, up, or down, but should maintain a straight line from the top of the forearm across the back of the hand. Do not rest the wrists on the sharp edge of the work  station surface while keying.

Photograph showing a side view of a worker sitting at a workstation with the correct keyboard height.  Arms are parallel to the floor with the forearm resting comfortably on the chair’s armrests.  Arms have, at a minimum, a neutral angle to the keyboard. It is preferable to keep the wrists higher than the fingertips while typing.

3. Monitor Distance and Height

Sitting in the keying position, set the distance to the monitor screen at arm's length (this can vary depending on the user's visual acuity). The height of the monitor should be where the eyes look naturally at the top 1/3 of the screen when the head is held level. If the user wears bi or trifocals, the monitor will usually be positioned at a lower level so the user does not have to tilt the head up to view the screen.

Photograph showing a side view of a worker at a workstation with the correct monitor distance and height.  The monitor is approximately one arm’s length away from the eyes with the eyes focused on the top third of the monitor.

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Workstation Setups

Ergonomic Chair Adjustments

Video Instructions
Body Built Chromcraft Neutral Posture Steelcase Zody
Body Built Ergonomic Chair Chromcraft Ergonomic Chair Neutral Posture Ergonomic Chair Steelcase Ergonomic Chair Zody Ergonomic Chair
Written instructions
Body Built Chromcraft Neutral Posture Steelcase Zody

Keyboard and Mouse Setup
Use wrist rests and maintain good postures.
Do not bend or twist your wrist when using the keyboard or mouse. Do not tilt keyboard upward.
A keyboard tray may be needed if the work surface or chair cannot be properly adjusted. 
DO DON'T
Do Photograph 1: Typing on a keyboard with proper neutral wrist posture.  A longitudinal line extends down the forearm to the tip of the middle finger. Don’t Photograph 1:  Typing on a keyboard without proper wrist posture.  Two areas are highlighted for importance. The wrists are not higher than the fingertips and there is back tilt to the keybowrd.
Do Photograph 2:  Hand holding a mouse properly with the wrist straight and the palm resting on the wrist rest. Don’t Photograph 2:  Hand improperly holding a mouse. There is side bending of the wrist.
Do Photograph 3:  Proper wrist and hand placement while typing. The wrist and hand are at a neutral angle, the heel of the palm is resting on the wrist rest, and the wrists are higher than the fingertips.  Don’t Photograph 3:  Person using a mouse incorrectly.  The palm of the hand is resting on the sharp edge of the desk creating a contact stress point and the fingertips are higher than the wrist.

Monitor Setup
Keep a good viewing distance and height: Adjust the height if possible or use a monitor stand if needed.
Viewing distance should be 20 to 40 inches (50 to 100 cm) from the screen depending on visual acuity.
When looking straight ahead, you should be focused in the upper 1/3 of the screen.
Photograph showing a worker at a workstation viewing a monitor that is set up correctly. The person’s neck is straight, they are focused on the top third of the monitor, and their eyes are 20-40 inches away.

Foot Rest Setup
When the desk surface is too high, you may need to use a footrest to support the feet. Always keep legs flat on the floor.
Photograph showing a worker at a workstation using a foot rest correctly with their thighs are parallel to the floor.

Document Holder Setup
Place a document holder between the monitor and the keyboard to avoid twist of neck, shoulder, and body.
Photograph showing a desk with a document holder in the foreground with monitors in the background.  The top of the document holder doesn’t extend beyond the bottom edge of the monitor.

Laptop Workstation Setup
Use a laptop stand to hold the laptop and connect to keyboard to maintain appropriate working postures.
Photograph showing a laptop computer being used as a workstation monitor.  The stand holding the laptop is high enough to keep the head and neck in a neutral position.

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Office Ergonomics Program Frequently Asked Questions

The Ergonomic Evaluation Process

  1. What is involved in an ergonomic assessment?
  2. How do I get the process started?
  3. I just want a new chair. Why do I have to go through an assessment process?
  4. Why do the chairs cost so much?
  5. If I change jobs at the University, can I take my chair with me?
  6. My office space is tiny so I need a tiny chair. Can you provide it for me?
  7. What is involved in a chair fitting?  Do you take measurements of my body and custom-manufacture the chair for me?
  8. We’re moving to a new building and my boss told me to call you for a new chair. Can you provide it for me?
  9. I’ve had my chair about a month now and I don’t like it anymore. Can I trade it in?
  10. My chair is filthy!  Who can I get to clean it?
  11. My chair just arrived and something is broken.  Who takes care of it?
  12. I’ve had my chair for many years now and it keeps sliding down so I feel like I’m sitting on the floor. How can I get it fixed?  What kind of warranty is on my chair?
  13. Why shouldn't I have our maintenance department repair my chair?
  14. I don’t do a lot of computer work at my desk. Why do I need a keyboard tray?
  15. What are the advantages of a footrest?
  16. I don’t do transcription so I don’t need a copyholder.  Why can’t I just place my reference materials on my desktop?
  17. I mostly use books for reference. Isn’t a copyholder too flimsy to hold a book?
  18. My doctor told me to get a specific type of equipment but I don’t see it in our office supplies catalog.  How can I buy it?
  19. I want to get a specific kind of  mouse. Can you provide it for me?
  20. I want an ergonomic keyboard. Can you provide it for me?

 

Q01:  What is involved in an ergonomic assessment? 
A01:
  A Safety Specialist comes to the employee’s workspace and evaluates how everything is set up in relation to the employee.  Work habits are observed in terms of height, distance, and repetitive motion.  Other factors, such as lighting, noise, and equipment are taken into consideration.  The representative suggests changes and improvements with explanations throughout the process.  Any equipment recommended is listed on a recommendation form sent to the employee after the assessment.  It is the responsibility of the department to order the equipment and send proof to REM to be reimbursed 50% of the cost.  REM recommends limited ergonomic office equipment, such as keyboard trays, monitor risers, footrests, etc.  Furniture is not included.

Q02:  How do I get the process started?
A02:
  Submit an Office Worker Ergonomic Questionnaire. A confirmation will be sent within 48 hours of receipt of the questionnaire.  After the form is assigned to a Safety Specialist, the Specialist contacts the employee to set up an appointment for the assessment.

Q03:  I just want a new chair. Why do I have to go through an assessment process?
A03: 
Departments may order chairs through the Purchasing Department but they MUST be ergonomic chairs designated in cooperation with REM and Purchasing.   The assessment process is helpful in many ways, however, and can also help you understand why ergonomic chairs and equipment are beneficial.

Q04:  Why do the chairs cost so much?
A04:
  A good quality chair retails for well over $1,200.  Purdue is eligible for GSA pricing which cuts the cost considerably, usually around 50%.  The chairs are made from quality materials that stand up to long term use. Part of the contract Purdue negotiates with vendors includes excellent warranties.  A good chair will last an average of 10-12 years and when you pro-rate the cost over that time period, the cost is less than $100 per year.  The chairs sold at places like Office Max, Staples, and Walmart have fewer adjustments on average and are made from cheaper materials. They generally do not last longer than two years before breaking down.

Q05:  If I change jobs at the University, can I take my chair with me?
A05:
  The department has a financial investment in the chair and it is up to them to decide if they want to let the employee take a chair to a new position within the University.   They can ask the new department for financial compensation and the two departments work out the cost based on the age and type of chair involved.  The department is not obligated to permit the employee to take the chair with them.

Q06:  My office space is tiny so I need a tiny chair. Can you provide it for me?
A06:
  The base of the chair is the same on all chairs.  As far as seat width and depth, it needs to be adequate for the user.  A large person sitting in a tiny chair will be uncomfortable and develop compensating behaviors, such as bad posture, sitting hunched over, or sitting in a twisted position in an effort to be more comfortable but that usually leads to physical pain in the long term.  Arm rests are recommended on chairs but in small spaces, they often bump into the desk and other equipment.  In those cases, removing the arms often opens up a bit of space.

Q07:  What is involved in a chair fitting?  Do you take measurements of my body and custom-manufacture the chair for me?
A07:
  No measurements are taken and no chairs are custom-made for anyone.  Chairs are ready made in approximately three sizes.   The majority of the population fits into the average size chair.  There are also chairs for the very petite and chairs for large and tall employees.  The employee is taken to a room where chairs are stored and then guided to sit in two or three appropriate for their build. Adjustments are made in each chair until the employee feels most comfortable.  If available, more chairs may be adjusted.  After sitting in all adjusted chairs, the employee picks the one that feels most comfortable to them.  Once the chair is selected, a fabric is chosen.  The employee will also be able to see other recommended equipment while in the room, such as copy holders, footrests, keyboard trays, etc.

Q08:  We’re moving to a new building and my boss told me to call you for a new chair. Can you provide it for me?
A08:
  REM does not fund chairs for new buildings or renovations.  The cost of furniture and equipment should be in the planning budget of that building or renovation. Departments are also responsible for replacing worn out chairs and providing chairs for new positions.  REM only funds chairs in existing positions where the existing chair is not suitable for the employee

Q09:  I’ve had my chair about a month now and I don’t like it anymore. Can I trade it in?
A09:
  The vendors do not take returns unless the chair is flawed when received.  REM does not have the resources to store and manage chair inventory so typically we do not take chairs back.    In some cases, if the chair can be used by someone else in the department, we will allow another chair recommendation for the employee but the department pays again for a new chair.

Q10:  My chair is filthy!  Who can I get to clean it?
A10:
  Cleaning is the responsibility of the department/individual.  A water based upholstery cleaner works on most fabrics.  Vacuuming the chairs periodically helps keep dust and lint in control.  The base and arms can be wiped down with water based cleaners also.   Check casters for dust, lint and hair.

Q11:  My chair just arrived and something is broken.  Who takes care of it?
A11:
  The vendor should be contacted immediately.  They will give instructions on how to proceed, whether it is in returning a chair or asking for a replacement part.

Q12:  I’ve had my chair for many years now and it keeps sliding down so I feel like I’m sitting on the floor. How can I get it fixed?  What kind of warranty is on my chair?
A12:
  Chair cylinders do fail and usually have a lifetime warranty for replacement but the warranty and process varies from vendor to vendor.  Contact Judy Clare at (765) 494-0398, or email her at jclare@purdue.edu to check on the warranty. She will need all of the chair information which should be on a label underneath the seat pan.  All chair issues should be reported to Judy and she will check on the warranty status.

Q13:  Why shouldn't I have our maintenance department repair my chair?
A13:
  The chair is under warranty and should be repaired under warranty until the warranty no longer applies.  Sometimes when it is repaired by someone other than the vendor, it negates the warranty.

Q14:  I don’t do a lot of computer work at my desk. Why do I need a keyboard tray?
A14:
  Keyboard trays allow the worker to adjust the height and tilt of the keyboard which is very important in long term use.   If the employee only spends 15 minutes a day checking email, they can probably get by without one.  The use of a keyboard tray is recommended but not mandated.   It is to the user’s benefit to have one.

Q15:  What are the advantages of a footrest?
A15:
  A footrest is a posture aid.  An employee is more likely to keep his/her feet on the floor instead of crossing at the knees or sitting on a foot when they have a comfortable place to put their feet that allows them to move around at the same time.  For an extremely short person, it can allow them to sit a little higher than normal.   Employees recovering from surgery involving the lower extremities often need to have their feet elevated to reduce swelling.

Q16:  I don’t do transcription so I don’t need a copyholder.  Why can’t I just place my reference materials on my desktop?
A16:
  Copy holders are not just for transcription.  Anyone referring to books or paperwork in their composition of a document online should have those materials close to eye level.  When papers are on the desktop, the employee tends to lean forward and crane their neck, which leads to shoulder and neck discomfort.   The eyes also refocus every time they look from a lower flat surface up to eye level which contributes to eye fatigue at the end of the day.  A good copyholder should be flexible enough to place where needed at an angle suitable for the work and should be able to be put away when not in use.

Q17:  I mostly use books for reference. Isn’t a copyholder too flimsy to hold a book?
A17:
  There are copy holders designed to hold books, large and small, as well as binders.

Q18:  My doctor told me to get a specific type of equipment but I don’t see it in our office supplies catalog.  How can I buy it?
A18:
   Fill out the questionnaire form on our website for an assessment. During the assessment, we can talk about the equipment suggested by your doctor.  We have some computer mice available for loan so that an employee can try it out before buying.  If a doctor recommends a specific piece of office equipment in writing, in most cases REM will fund 50% of the cost. If a doctor just says “ergonomic”, we will help you find what works for you.

Q19:  I want to get a specific kind of  mouse. Can you provide it for me?
A19:
  We loan computer mice out for two weeks which is usually long enough to get the feel of it and find out if it works for the employee.   Once a compatible mouse is found, REM will recommend it as part of an ergonomic assessment.  Employees can also check with their computer support to see what is available. 

Q20:  I want an ergonomic keyboard. Can you provide it for me?
A20:
  REM does not fund keyboards except as prescribed by a physician.  Studies do not support that “natural” shape keyboards are more ergonomic overall than standard keyboards.  However, it does depend on the individual, the type of work done, and the overall office set up.  Most of the time placement of the keyboard is the most important factor.

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Written Ergonomic Chair Adjustments

Body Bilt Adjustments

Directions are from the perspective of a person sitting in the chair.

  • Seat Depth Adjustments: Paddle shaped lever under the left side of the seat near the front. Lift to move seat forward or backward. Release to lock position.
  • Seat Height Adjustments: Middle lever under the right side of the seat immediately beneath the right armrest support. To raise seat or lower seat, lift ever. Lift the lever with full body weight on the seat to lowers it to lowest position. Release lever to lock position.
  • Seat Tilt Adjustments: Front lever under the right side of the seat. Lift lever to adjust tilt. Push lever down to lock position.
  • Backrest Height Adjustments: Grip backrest and lift upward to raise it incrementally. To return the backrest to the lowest position, raise it to maximum height and lower it.
  • Backrest Tilt Adjustments: Rear lever under the right side of the seat. Lift lever to adjust tilt. Push lever down to lock position.
  • Lumbar Adjustments: Small rubber bulb pump on the right backside of the backrest. Press to inflate or depress button either on top or below the bulb to deflate.
  • Armrests Adjustments:
    • Lift the tab under the armrest to lower or raise it. Release to lock position.
    • To pivot armrest laterally around support lift and turn. Release to lock position.

Back to Ergonomic Chairs

Chromcraft Adjustments 

Directions are from the perspective of a person sitting in the chair.

  • Seat Depth Adjustments: Small handle under the right side of the seat. Pull outward to move seat forward or backward.
  • Seat Height Adjustments: Paddle shaped lever under the right side of the seat. Pull upward to raise seat; push downward while sitting to lower seat. Release lever to lock position.
  • Backrest Height Adjustments: Grip backrest and lift upward to raise it incrementally. To return the backrest to the lowest position, raise it to maximum height and lower it.
  • Tilt Adjustments: Paddle shaped lever on the left side of the seat perpendicular to the floor. Push the lever forward to adjust tilt. Release to lock position.
  • Lumbar Adjustments: Small plastic tabs on both sides of the backrest. Adjust using both hands to raise or lower support.
  • Armrests Adjustments: Small button under front of armrest. Press the button to lower or raise the armrest. Release to lock position.

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Neutral Posture Adjustments

Directions are from the perspective of a person sitting in the chair.

  • Seat Depth Adjustments: Paddle shaped lever under the left side of seat near the rear parallel to floor. Lift to move seat forward or backward. Release to lock position.
  • Seat Height Adjustments: Middle lever under the right side of the seat immediately beneath the right armrest support. To raise seat or lower seat, lift ever. Lift the lever with full body weight on the seat to lowers it to lowest position. Release lever to lock position.
  • Seat Tilt Adjustments: Front lever under the right side of the seat. Lift lever to adjust tilt. Push lever down to lock position.
  • Backrest Height Adjustments: Grip backrest and lift upward to raise it incrementally. To return the backrest to the lowest position, raise it to maximum height and lower it.
  • Backrest Tilt Adjustments: Rear lever under the right side of the seat. Lift lever to adjust tilt. Push lever down to lock position.
  • Lumbar Adjustments: Small rubber bulb pump on the right backside of the backrest. Press to inflate or depress button the bulb to deflate.  
    • For Neutral Posture chairs with a lever on the right side under backrest instead of a pump, move the lever up and down to inflate the bladder.  Push the lever completely down to deflate bladder.
  • Armrests Adjustments:
    • To lower or raise the armrest press button on the armrest support. Release to lock position.
    • To adjust armrest pad press button under armrest pad and lift. Release to lock position.
    • Some Neutral Posture chairs have armrest that can be adjusted for height only by lifting upward to raise it incrementally. To return to the lowest position, raise it to maximum height and lower it.

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Steelcase Adjustments

Directions are from the perspective of a person sitting in the chair.

  • Seat Depth Adjustments: Lever under the left side of seat near the front. Lift to move seat forward or backward. Release to lock position.
  • Seat Height Adjustments: Flat lever under the right side of the seat. Lift the lever to raise seat or lower the seat. Lifting the lever with full body weight on the seat lowers it to its lowest position. Release lever to lock position.
  • Lumbar Adjustments: Small plastic tabs behind the backrest on both sides. Adjust using both hands to raise or lower support.
    • Turning a large round knob found on the right side of the chair behind the arm rest controls firmness.
  • Armrests Adjustments:
    • To lower or raise the armrest press button on the armrest support. Release to lock position.
    • The armrest pad does not require a button, lever, or tab to be moved into different lateral positions.

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Zody Adjustments

Directions are from the perspective of a person sitting in the chair.

  • Seat Depth Adjustments: Large tab under the left side of seat near the front. Pull the tab outward to move seat forward or backward. Release the tab to lock position.
  • Seat Height Adjustments: Tab under the right side of the seat near the front. To raise seat or lower seat, lift tab. Lift the tab with full body weight on the seat to lower it to lowest position. Release tab to lock position.
  • Seat Tilt Adjustments: Lever in front of small crank under the right side of the seat. Lift lever to adjust seat tilt. Push lever down to lock position.
    • Rotating the crank clockwise increases tension while making this adjustment, counterclockwise rotation decreases tension.
  • Backrest Tilt Adjustments: Lever behind small crank under the right side of the seat. Lift lever to adjust backrest tilt. Push lever down to lock position.
    • Rotating the crank clockwise increases tension while making this adjustment, counterclockwise rotation decreases tension.
  • Lumbar Adjustments: Two symmetrical bars behind and below the backrest. Raise or lower bars to adjust.
  • Armrests Adjustments: Tab beneath armrest on outward side.
    • Lift tab to lower or raise the armrest.
    • The armrest pad does not require a button, lever, or tab to be moved into different lateral positions.

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