How to Set Up Your Workstation
Step 1 Decide which tasks have priority
Consider all the various tasks, which you perform and decide which should be given priority when you organise your workplace.
Typical tasks include using a keyboard where you will want the keyboard at elbow height, close enough to allow your upper arms to hang down naturally and you want to be able to change position to avoid discomfort.
When operating equipment, it is important to be able to reach frequently used controls without excessive twisting and stretching. Space to spread out working documents and plans is important, as is the ability to organise the workstation for different styles of working from inputting data to writing. Telephoning and informal meetings may be important and place constraints on how you want to organise your workstation.
Step 2 Check that the features of your workstation are arranged to suit your tasks
With these tasks in mind, make sure everything is properly positioned and adjusted. If you find a problem, see if you can fix it yourself by making simple adjustments. If you are unable to fix a problem yourself, you should contact your local VDU assessor in the first instance. Your line manager will have details of who is the appointed assessor for your area.
In many cases you will find that simple adjustments to the equipment or furniture will be sufficient to ensure that your workplace suits you and your tasks. Do not be concerned if you have chosen to adjust or set out your workplace differently from your colleagues. Remember that everyone is different and what matters is that your workplace suits you and your own style or working.
Detailed overleaf you will find some advice dealing with different parts of your working environment :
- Display screen
- Lighting and daylight
- General environment and work organisation.
You should also be aware of symptoms of fatigue and discomfort.
Plan your desk so that you can do the tasks you do most often without twisting and stretching. If you use the keyboard a lot, sit directly in front of it, so that you are not twisting or stretching. If you spend more time working on documents, put them in front and the keyboard to the side.
Position the screen at a comfortable reading distance (approximately arms length away is comfortable for most users). Position the screen directly in front of you if you read it most of the time or to the side if you only refer to it occasionally. Make sure that you can do your main tasks without excessive twisting.
Now adjust your chair so that you are at the right height for keying — wrists reasonably straight, forearms approximately horizontal or sloping slightly downwards and upper arms hanging down from comfortably relaxed shoulders. Then check that your feet are comfortably on the floor and that your legs are not hitting the underside of the desk. Some people may need a footrest to avoid their legs being unsupported and to prevent the underside of their thighs being squashed by the front of the chair.
Make sure that the equipment, documents and other reference materials that you use are located so that you can reach frequently used items without excessive twisting, reaching or stretching. You may find that you prefer different arrangements depending on the type of task you are doing.
Lighting and Daylight
Adjust the position of your screen so that you are looking comfortably down at an angle of 15-30 degrees below the horizontal but without hunching your shoulders. A useful tip is that the top of the display casing should be approximately at eye level. You should be able to work at the screen without being distracted by glare or reflections.
Here are some ideas for reducing the likelihood of problems with distracting glare and reflections — if possible, position the screen:
- At right angles to a window
- So that it does not back on to a window
- To avoid reflections from ceiling and wall mounted light fittings
- So that you can use the tilt and swivel movements.
General Environment and Work Organisation
Even a good posture is tiring if you sit still for too long. Try to organise your tasks so that there is naturally some movement in the job. If long spells in the same position are unavoidable, then deliberate exercises can help to avoid discomfort and fatigue. You should take short breaks from keying before you start to feel fatigue. The aim is to use breaks to avoid fatigue, not to recover from it.
Symptoms of Fatigue and Discomfort
Following the above guidance and setting up your workstation will help you to avoid some of the problems which are known to be associated with work which requires the same posture for prolonged periods, a degree of concentration and some repetitive movements. When introducing the new Health and Safety Regulations, which apply to users of Display Screen Equipment, the Health & Safety Executive identified three main areas in which users’ health could be affected:
- Upper limb pains and discomfort
- Eye and eyesight effects
- Fatigue and stress
These health effects are not limited to people whose work involves the use of computers.
Ergonomics Guidelines July 1994
The Ergonomics Training Centre