Faculty, staff and students can prevent ergonomic related injuries by following best practices for working at desks, working in laboratories and for lifting and handling materials. Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) offers self-help resources, customized departmental training, and both individual and departmental level consultations to decrease discomfort/injury.

Office Based/Computer ergonomics:

  1. Self-help Resources
  2. Working From Home. EHS can conduct home office consultations via Zoom which take 30 minutes. Additional self-help resources are also available below.
  3. Seating Evaluations
    • EHS offers employees who have supervisory/management authorization the ability to schedule a custom seating evaluation.  During this visit, the employee sits in a variety of chairs which are adjusted (by the ergonomic professional) for fit and comfort.  The selected chair is then sent to the employee’s work location for a weeklong trial.  Once the loan period is over, the loaner chair returns to EHS and a recommendation for purchase is made. Please note that EHS has no funding to assist with the purchase of new chairs.
  4. Request Assistance

Group Training:

EHS offers customized group training for your department’s needs. This includes office/computer based ergonomics, work from home office ergonomics, laboratory ergonomics, material handling ergonomics and other topics as desired.  This training is available in person or virtually.

Request Group Training

Department Interventions:

EHS ergonomics assists departments reduce risk of injury. These interventions are often initiated by reported injuries or injury trends within the department. For example, if an employee/s reports injury or discomfort in a specific area of the body or if a particular work task results in employee reports of discomfort/injury, EHS ergonomics can assess and provide recommendations to reduce the risk.  


  1. Several employees report discomfort moving storage boxes from one location to another
  2. A heavy piece of equipment needs to be moved up/downstairs
  3. Multiple reports of injuries have been reported putting trash into dumpsters

Request Department Intervention

Unsure of what you need?  Email

Each individual and workstation are different.  Adjust your own work environment using the following steps.  These adjustments 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
  1. Move your chair away from your desk and pretend the desk does not exist to adjust the chair to fit YOU.
  2. Adjust the height of the chair so your feet are comfortably flat on the floor.
  3. Adjust the seat depth so you have 2-3 finger widths between the front edge of the chair and your calf.
  4. Raise or lower the backrest height to fit comfortably in the low back at your beltline.
  5. Move the armrests down completely. Relax your shoulders, then bend your elbows to 90 degrees.
  6. 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:

Higher than the armrestsTry 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 armrestsTry 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

NOTE:  Adjust the height of your monitor last.

Do not wear glassesYour eyes without tipping your head up or down to facilitate a slightly downward gaze of the eyes, which is ideal.
Wear single lenses or contactsYour 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 trifocalsThe middle section of your glasses to avoid tilting the head up to see the screen.

Supplemental Information

Poor posture when using pipettes, microscopes and other laboratory equipment can cause employees to feel discomfort.  Since laboratory 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 low back
  • Reduce discomfort in the wrist and thumb

Supplemental Information

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

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