Ergonomics in the Workplace

Ergonomics is the process of designing or arranging workplaces, products and systems so they fit the people who use them. This means producing a workspace to accommodate for worker’s health needs. Ergonomics, in fact, is a branch of science. It aims to learn about human abilities and limitations, and then apply this learning to improve people’s interaction with products, systems and environments. It aims to improve workspaces and environments to minimise the risk of injury or harm. As technologies change, we need to ensure what we use is designed for our body’s requirements.

In the workplace, according to Safe Work Australia, the total economic cost of work-related injuries and illness is estimated to be $60 billion dollars. Recent research has shown that lower back pain is the world’s most common work-related disability, affecting employees from offices, building sites and in the high-risk category, agriculture. Ergonomics aims to create safe, comfortable and productive workspaces by bringing people’s abilities and limitations into the design of a workspace. This includes the individual’s body size, strength, skill, speed, sensory abilities (vision, hearing), and even attitudes.

For ergonomics to be researched and produced successfully, it needs to use other scientific areas, including, engineering, physiology and psychology. For the best design, ergonomists use the data and techniques from several other areas:

  • Anthropometry: body sizes, shapes; populations and variations
  • Biomechanics: muscles, levers, forces, strength
  • Environmental physics: noise, light, heat, cold, radiation, vibration body systems: hearing, vision, sensations
  • Applied psychology: skill, learning, errors, differences
  • Social psychology: groups, communication, learning, behaviours






  • Maintain proper posture, paying careful attention to positioning of head, neck/spine, arms/wrists, hips/thighs and feet
    • Ensure your back is supported, your shoulders relaxed (not slumped, not elevated), and that there is no pressure on your thighs
  • Alternate between different postures on a regular basis
  • When keyboarding, use minimum force while striking the keys
  • Keep a neutral position, where the forearms, wrists and hands are in a straight line
  • Avoid awkward reaching for work tools such as telephone, mouse and reference materials
  • Avoid resting elbows, forearms or wrists on hard surfaces or sharp edges
  • Take frequent mini-breaks throughout the day to give muscles and joints a chance to rest and recover
  • Alternate between work activities which use different muscle groups to avoid overuse
  • Give eyes a break by closing them momentarily, gazing at a distant object and blinking frequently
  • Proper exercises are a complement to a complete office ergonomics program. Consult with us to select appropriate exercises


  • Maintain appropriate light levels for specific tasks. More illumination is usually needed to read a document than a computer screen
  • Reduce or eliminate glare by using window shades, diffusers on overhead lighting and anti-glare filters for computers
  • Adjust the contrast and brightness on your computer screen to a comfortable level
    • Get a regular eye exam and if necessary, wear corrective lenses
    • Tell your eye specialist how often you use the computer
  • Clean the computer screen and other surfaces regularly
  • Reduce the number of dust-collecting items like papers and files on your desk
  • If necessary, use a portable air cleaner to reduce airborne particles like dust, pollen and mould
  • Maintain a comfortable temperature by using layers of clothing or a portable fan or heater
  • Be considerate of others working in the area and conduct meetings and conversations in appropriate areas
  • Position fabric partitions to reduce noise from conversations, foot traffic and equipment, like copiers and printers
  • Identify distracting noises and try headphones, ear plugs, soft music or a quiet fan to reduce or mask the noise


  • Reduce stress by planning ahead and setting realistic expectations for what you can accomplish during the workday
  • Organise your workload to help even out busy and slow times, to avoid feeling ‘swamped’
  • Vary tasks to make the day more interesting
    • Alternate computer works with other tasks like phone calls, filing, copying and meetings
  • Organise equipment, supplies and furniture in the most efficient arrangement for daily tasks
  • Enhance privacy by using office partitions and privacy filters for computer screens or documents
  • Acknowledge ideas and accomplishments of co-workers on a regular basis
  • Develop stress reduction and relaxation techniques which work for you at the office and at home
  • Personalise your office with a few favourite items, like artwork, photos and plants
  • Take mini-breaks that re-energise, invigorate and refresh
  • Follow these same ergonomic guidelines at home, in meetings and while travelling