Bates College is pleased to offer employees an ergonomics assessment program. Please contact Jess Smith to schedule a review of your office workstation or your job task/other work area. We can often increase your comfort with some minor adjustments to how you do your work.

Ergonomics – Make Your Workstation Work For You!

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is defined as the science of matching the workstation and the task to be performed, to human capabilities and limitations.  It is considered to the be the fit among person, tools, and task.  The literal definition is Erg – work and Nomics – the study of.  

Ergonomic injuries include musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as:

  • Carpal Tunnel Symdrome
  • Repetitive Motion Injuries
  • Repetitive Strain Injuries

Impact of MSDs in the workplace: 

  • Work-related MSDs are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2013, MSD cases accounted for 33% of all worker injury and illness cases.

Ergonomic citations fall under the OSHA General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), which states that “each employer furnish to each of its employees a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm”.

Office Ergonomics

Information technology is now a routine part of many Bates employees’ workday. Using a poorly setup workstation for more than four hours puts employees at greater risk for developing discomfort and/or injury. Bates EHS goal is to provide employees the right equipment and teach them how to adjust their workstation to be ergonomically correct with as little physical strain as possible.

Injury concerns related to the workstation setup focus on cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) with gradual onset over time, or musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that injure muscles, tendons, nerves, joints, or spinal discs that are caused by sudden or sustained physical exertion.

Symptoms of an improper workstation setup include pain in the neck, back, hands, arms, general tension, dizziness, and eyestrain. If eyestrain is believed to be caused by improper lighting conditions contact EHS for an assesment. Below are actions each person can take to alleviate problems associated due to an improper workstation.


Chair setup is the first and most critical part of workstation ergonomics. Follow the guidelines below to appropriately adjust the chair:

  1. Set chair height so feet rest comfortably on the floor or a footrest.
  2. Adjust the seat pan and back to fit body height and allow for good circulation to the lower legs.
  3. Adjust the lumbar support so the small of the back rests comfortably, allowing shoulders to be relaxed in a “down and back” position.
  4. The armrests should be placed slightly forward of hips so arms rest close to the body.

If assistance is needed familiarizing yourself with the chair capabilities contact EHS for assistance.

Keyboard and Mouse

Keyboards and mouses come in many varieties and styles. Proper fit and position setup is essential for preventing injuries to the wrists, arms, and shoulders. Follow the guidelines below to appropriately use a keyboard and mouse:

  1. Position the keyboard directly in front of you.
  2. Place your arms close enough so that your wrists are straight and your elbows are approximately 90 degrees or almost parallel to the floor.
  3. Use a loose, comfortable grip when using the mouse and keep it close and parallel to the keyboard.
  4. If using a laptop, use a separate mouse and keyboard if needed.

Monitor and Reference Materials

Incorrect placement of the monitor(s) and/or reference materials at the workstation can lead to neck pain and eyestrain. Follow the guidelines below to appropriately use monitor(s) and reference materials:

  1. Position your monitor(s) in front of you approximately one arm’s length away.
  2. The top of the monitor screen should be at eye level or slightly below, allowing your chin to be positioned parallel to the floor.
  3. Dual monitors or laptops should be the same distance and height in relation to your head.
  4. Reference materials should be placed as close to the monitor as possible and at the same height. Use equipment such as a document holder if necessary.
  5. If wearing progressive lenses, lower the screen until you can see without changing your chin position.

Working from Home

The same workstation rules still apply. In addition, utilize the following safety measures as much as possible:

  1. Use a dedicated home office space whenever possible. This space should meet the basic requirements of any other work space.
  2. Your office should be equipped with a desk, adjustable office chair, and a desktop computer.
  3. If not in a dedicated office space, or using a laptop as the primary computer, elevate the screen so that it is at eye level.
  4. Keeping your body in a neutral position (a position of ease for the body to maintain for a prolonged period of time) is important to avoid developing an injury.

Safe Laptop Use

Although highly portable, a laptop’s compact design, with attached screen and keyboard, forces laptop users into awkward postures. Laptops pose less risks when used for short periods of time, but many people use laptops as their main computer. This creates an ongoing trade-off between neck / head posture vs. hand / wrist posture. Utilize the following guidelines to avoid developing an injury:

  1. Maintain a neutral neck posture by placing the top of the screen at about eye level.
  2. Use a laptop stand or place your laptop on a stable support surface, such as reams of paper or books so that screen height may be adjusted.
  3. Use a regular-sized external keyboard and mouse with the laptop, and place them both on the work surface.


Computer-related eyestrain is common and is caused by improper lighting at your workstation. Chronic eyestrain can lead to headaches and fatigue. Utilize the following guidelines to improve lighting in your workstation:

  1. Minimize glare on your computer screen by your positions.
  2. Never shine a lamp directly onto the screen.
  3. If working near a window, adjust the blinds to reduce glare and produce lighting.
  4. Adjust the brightness and contrast of the screen.
  5. Give your eyes a break by focusing on a faraway object for 20-30 seconds.

If eyestrain is believed to be caused by improper lighting conditions, contact EHS for an assessment.

Work Habits

Work habits can dramatically affect your chance of getting injured. EHS recommends incorporating the following “good habits” to your workday:

  1. Change your position and posture frequently.
  2. Alternate the hand that operates the mouse.
  3. Utilize a head set if using the computer and phone simultaneously.
  4. Stand to reach items near or above your desk.
  5. Keep frequently used items nearby to avoid twisting.
  6. Squat by using safe lifting techniques when removing items from drawers.
  7. Make physical fitness a part of your office workday. Take a walk at lunch. Stand up and stretch every hour. Utilize the many Bates resources, such as the B-Well Program, to enhance your daily work routine.

Industrial Ergonomics

Ergonomic risk factors also exist in the general industry work environment. Ten tips are listed below for observing ergonomic risk factors in the general industry.

  1. Bent wrist and/or pinching.
  2. Frequent heavy force with the hands using 10 lbs. or more.
  3. Frequent winging of the arms.
  4. Static forward head posture.
  5. Kneeling or prolonged standing.
  6. Static forward bending.
  7. Frequent or heavy lifting involving 35 lbs. or more.
  8. Work above shoulder height 60 inches or more.
  9. Work below knee height (about 15-20 inches) that is frequent or longer than 2 hours per day.
  10. Work at arm’s length or extended reaches that are frequent or longer than 2 hours per day.