Ergonomics

Faculty, staff, and students can prevent ergonomic-related injuries by following best practices for working at desks and lab stations, and for lifting and handling materials. Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) offers self-service checklists, training, and consultations to help you set up an ergonomically correct work environment to decrease the likelihood of experiencing physical discomfort or injury.

To help you get started on improving your work environment, contact the appropriate ergonomics support program described in the following table.  While you are waiting for assistant from a representative, refer to the appropriate sections on this page to learn about best practices you can implement at your workstation.

IF YOU… THEN…
Are currently seeing a physician, chiropractor, or therapist about physical discomfort experienced during the work day Refer to the  Medical Ergonomics Program or contact MHealthy at mhealthyergo@umich.edu or (734) 763-0852
Work for University of Michigan (U-M) Health System Contact Safety Management Services at SafetyMgmt-Safety@med.umich.edu or (734) 764-4427
Work on the Ann Arbor campus or at the Medical School Complete the Ergonomics Services Request Form

Computer Ergonomics

Each individual and workstation are different.  Simple adjustments to the workstation tend to work for many individuals; however, if implementing these changes does not provide relief from discomfort, let the ergonomic representative from your area know during your consultation.

Adjusting your chair

  • Move your chair away from your desk and pretend the desk does not exist to adjust the chair to fit you.
  • Adjust the height of the chair so your feet are comfortably flat on the floor.
  • Adjust the seat depth so you have 2-3 finger widths between the front edge of the chair and your calf.
  • Raise or lower the backrest height to fit comfortably in the low back at your beltline.
  • Move the armrests down completely. Relax your shoulders, then bend your elbows to 90 degrees.
  • Hold your elbow there and raise the armrest to support your arm in that position without pushing your shoulders up.

Adjusting your keyboard tray

  • Roll up to the desk or keyboard tray, then complete the action relevant to your situation:
IF THE KEYBOARD AND MOUSE ARE… THEN…
Higher than the armrests Try one of the following solutions:

  • Lower the keyboard tray height
  • Raise the height of the chair so that the armrests are approximately the same height as the desk and use a footrest to support your legs and feet
Lower than the armrests Try one of the following solutions:

  • Raise the keyboard tray height to be approximately the same height as the armrests
  • Raise the desk

Adjusting your monitor

  • Adjust the height of your monitor last.
IF YOU… THEN THE TOP CASING OF THE MONITOR SHOULD BE IN LINE WITH…
Do not wear glasses Your eyes without tipping your head up or down to facilitate a slightly downward gaze of the eyes, which is ideal.
Wear single lenses or contacts Your eyes without tipping your head up or down to facilitate a slightly downward gaze of the eyes, which is ideal.
Wear bifocals, progressive lenses, or trifocals The middle section of your glasses to avoid tilting the head up to see the screen.

Supplemental Information


Laboratory Ergonomics

Poor posture when using pipettes, microscopes, and other lab equipment can cause employees to feel discomfort.  Since lab space is typically used by a variety of employees, designing a space that works best for everyone is what ergonomics does.

Using ergonomic equipment helps:

  • Reduce compression on the arms and elbows
  • Improve posture
  • Alleviate stress on the lower back
  • Reduce discomfort in the wrist and thumb

The following table provides some ergonomic-friendly tips when using lab equipment:

EQUIPMENT ERGONOMIC TIPS
Microscope
  • Place microscope closer to the edge of the work bench
  • Move chair close to microscope and sit upright in chair against the backrest
  • Raise the microscope so the eye piece is eye level by using books or microscope adjuster
  • Adjust the angle of the eye piece to place the neck in a neutral position
Biological Safety Cabinets and Fumehoods
  • Verify lights in fumehoods and biological safety cabinets are working properly and replace bulbs when necessary
  • Use proper sitting posture and positioning
  • Move most frequently used items closest to you to minimize reaching
Glove Boxes or Anaerobic Chambers
  • Move all needed materials for the experiment from the side chamber to the main chamber at one time to reduce the amount of side reaching
  • Use highly absorbent hand powder for glove comfort
  • Rotate jobs to avoid long continuous use of glove boxes
Centrifuge Rotors (manipulating)
  • Implement a pulley system, which would attach to the ceiling directly above the centrifuge
  • Use a second person to assist with the lift
  • Use a cart to transport rotors
Microtomes/ Crystats
  • Use a neutral postures when operating the microtome or cryostat (without excessive bending of the wrist)
Pipettes
  • Minimize manual pipetting
  • Use the pointer finger to aspirate and the thumb to dispense
  • Use shorter pipettes to decrease hand elevation and awkward postures
  • Learn how to correctly operate the electronic or multi-pipettor (e.g., pick up tips, eject tips)
    • Use thin wall pipette tips that fit correctly and are easy to eject
    • Use minimal force when applying pipette tips
    • Use low profile waste receptacles for used tips (they should be no higher than the top of the tubes being filled)
Adapted from Centers for Disease Control Lab Ergonomics home page

Laboratory Ergonomic Training

EHS offers ergonomic presentations to U-M faculty and staff free of charge.  Presentations are customized to your needs but address the following issues:

  • Lab ergonomic risk factors
  • The most commonly reported musculoskeletal discomfort experienced by lab workers
  • Simple adjustments to reduce risks and associated discomfort

Supplemental Information


Lifting and Material Handling Ergonomics

Back injuries are closely associated with lifting heavy materials.  Eighty (80) percent of people will experience low back discomfort significant enough to visit their doctor sometime during their career.  Although learning how to lift heavy items while reducing your risk of injury is helpful, it is always better to engineer out risks associated with heavy lifting.  This means using carts and lifts instead of your body to handle heavy loads.  Ergonomics can help identify engineering solutions to reduce lifting materials.

Lifting and Material Handling Ergonomics Training

EHS offers ergonomic presentations to U-M faculty and staff free of charge.  Presentations are customized to your needs but address the following issues:

  • Ergonomic risk factors during lifting and handling
  • Why the back gets injured
  • Simple adjustments to reduce risks and associated discomfort

Supplemental Information:

MHealthy Back Care Web site