Ergonomics

Office Ergonomics is Music to My Ears

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, WCP®

As a fan of most music genres, especially alternative and classic rock, several song titles come to mind that I believe fit nicely with the topic of office ergonomics.  Unlike the Billboard Top 100, these 12 songs are not ranked in any particular order but rather correspond to sound advice on avoiding repetitive stress or cumulative trauma injuries related to computer use.  And with a one and a two and a three…

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  • Mighty Mouse by Tesla from the album Into the Now released in 2004: While the mouse is a mighty input device, it can be a source of significant stress to the wrist, forearm, elbow, and even the shoulder and lateral side of the neck. Keep the mouse in close proximity to the keyboard within short reach.  Consider using a vertically designed mouse to approximate a more neutral forearm posture.  Navigate into the mouse properties via the control panel to speed up the pointer motion speed from the default halfway setting.  You won’t have to wrestle with the mouse so much to move the cursor arrow across the monitor screen.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Not All Mice Are Created Equal posted in 2014

  • Codes and Keys by Death Cab for Cutie from the album Codes and Keys released in 2011: Use shortcut keys as a quicker and easier method of navigating and executing commands in software programs. Keep the keyboard flat on the work surface to minimize hand/wrist extension.  Consider using an ergonomic keyboard for a less constrained typing posture.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Ten Tips for a Perfect Fit posted in 2008

  • The Big Screen by Travis from the album Where You Stand released in 2013: Monitor technology has come a long way from the days of the 15 inch CRT design. Large 24 inch screens help to spare the eyes from straining to see the display items.  When using two monitors, keep the primary monitor front and center or if both are shared virtually equally, mate them symmetrically with the centerline of the keyboard with roughly a 30 degree angle between the two.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Dealing with Dual Monitors posted in 2012

  • Far Away Eyes by The Rolling Stones from the album Some Girls released in 1978: To avoid a forward head posture (anterior head carriage) with torso flexion, position the monitor(s) within a range of 18 to 24 inches from your eyes. To reduce eyestrain, apply the 20/20/20 rule (for every 20 minutes of fixed gaze on the monitor screen, look at an object about 20 feet away for 20 seconds).

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You posted in 2015

  • Hold Your Head Up by Argent from the album All Together Now released in 1972: Depending on prescription eyewear, adjust the height of the monitor(s) to promote a neutral, upright head posture.  A ream of paper (2 inches thick) or two inserted under the base of the monitor is a frugal way to increase the screen height.  Use a document holder or inline adjustable angle copy stand to minimize downward head tilt.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Heads-up! “Text Neck” on the Rise posted in 2013

  • The Phone Call by The Pretenders from the album Pretenders released in 1980: The phone should be positioned on the side of the keyboard and monitor for the hand favored in grabbing the handset to prevent a crossover reach. Use a phone headset if cradling the handset between the neck and shoulder is a constant and prolonged task when conversing with the party on the other end of the line.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Sherlock Holmes, the Ergonomist posted in 2015

  • Someone Keeps Moving My Chair by They Might Be Giants from the album Flood released in 1990: Ah, the shared chair that someone adjusts to their own liking. Get to know the chair’s adjustment features such as backrest tilt and height, seat pan height, depth, and angle, lumbar support, and armrest movement to restore it back to a comfortable fit.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Ergonomics by the Seat of Your Pants posted in 2016

  • Blinded by the Light by Bruce Springsteen from the album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. released in 1973: Ambient light in the office environment is oftentimes too much, resulting in decreased contrast on the monitor screen. This can lead to the unconscious behavior of squinting and leaning forward straining the eyes, neck, and shoulders.   A small desktop task lamp can provide adequate illumination in a half-light ambience.   

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: See More with Less? Yes! posted in 2011

  • Within Your Reach by The Replacements from the album Hootenanny released in 1983: Applying the neutral zone principle to workstations establishes a boundary of 18 to 24 inches for the placement of most frequently used items such as the keyboard, mouse, phone, and pen & pencil container.  Less frequently used items such as reference books, desk organizers, and electric calculators should be situated within a secondary zone of 24 to 36 inches and slid closer when needed. 

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Enter the Neutral Zone posted in 2013

  • Get Up, Stand Up by The Wailers from the album Burnin’ released in 1973: Prolonged sitting leads to static muscle activity with reduced blood flow to the affected body area. A micro-break every 20-30 minutes in a standing position with stretching can help to reinvigorate fatigued, contracted muscles.   Consider a desk mount sit/stand unit or height adjustable workstation for a more dynamic work routine.   Remember the best posture is the next posture!

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Micro Breaks = Macro Benefit posted in 2010

  • Walk On by U2 from the album All That You Can’t Leave Behind released in 2000: Rather than bending to the side with an awkward extended reach to grab the copy off the adjacent desktop printer, connect to a more remote printer and walk on over to retrieve the document.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Walk On! posted in 2010

  • In the Lap of the Gods by Queen from the album Sheer Heart Attack released in 1974: Laptop use induces a constrained upper body posture with significant downward head tilt. For prolonged use, connect a mouse and keyboard (wireless or corded) and elevate the laptop on a stand or stack of paper reams to view the screen with a neutral head position.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Laptop Ergonomics posted in 2012

For MEMIC policyholders with ergonomic dilemmas, all you need is…to click on this link to the Safety Director landing page to create a personal profile.  With a little help from MEMIC’s ergonomic resources, you’ll find solutions that make working a little better all the time.

 


Keep Lifts Between the Knees and Shoulders

BrownPosted by Allan Brown, PT 

How did this lifting range come into existence?  Some might say experience and logic got us here.  Actually, this guideline was developed through historical research done by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) using mechanical models and understanding the mechanism of injury. 

The NIOSH lifting equation is used to predict the risk of injury based on the weight being lifted.  The equation uses a load constant of 51 pounds.  This was the starting load that 99% of male and 75% of female workers could handle safely in perfect conditions.  However, perfect conditions don’t exist in our manufacturing and manual lifting worlds. 

The equation accounts for these imperfections (such as reaching and vertical distance) and chisels away at the 51 pounds as risks increase.  Once all considerations are accounted for the final recommended weight limit is calculated.  This is often something less than 51 pounds.  The healthcare industries as well as some manufacturers are starting to use 35 pounds as a standard. It’s a basic recommendation that doesn’t account for all risks when lifting. 

Why knee and shoulder height? 

At shoulder height the dynamics and forces around the shoulder change and become poorer and weaker.  According to a review of literature by Rhode and Rhode titled Occupational Risk Factors of Shoulder Tendon Disorders 2015, when lifting an object to above shoulder height the core and stabilizer muscles become less efficient so we change our body mechanics and the risk of shoulder injury increases dramatically. 

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The graphic above illustrates safe lift zones and appropriate weights in those zones.  The green area is the best zone often referred to as the power zone.  The red zone is the no lift zone and is appropriately above shoulder and below knee height.  Additionally, the further a worker reaches from the body the lesser the weight safely handled (yellow zone). You can see why 35 pounds became the healthcare industry standard and a good recommendation for all lifting environments.

At the lower end of a lift, moving below the knee increases the risk and exposure to the back, especially for the lumbar region.  Research completed by Al Nachemson  illustrated the changes in disc pressure with different activities.    Lifting activities greatly increase the disc pressure.  Better body mechanics reduces the force and keeping the load off the floor in an upright position reduces the force further. 

Here’s a fact that will make you pause before you lift from the floor. Bending at the waist and reaching to the floor with no weight in the hands increases the pressure in the lumbar disc to approximately 1000 inch pounds. 

NIOSH recommends limiting lumbar disc pressure to no greater than 770 inch pounds.  Forces beyond 770 inch pounds begin to physically change the health of the disc.  Lifting properly can reduce the force, but proper technique is a skill rarely mastered or used by people in a dynamic work environment.  

Through these studies we know the safest lift range is between standing knee and shoulder height.  This is a basic guideline not taking into consideration reaches and twists away from the body as well as coupling (grip).  Work environments outside these ranges increase the risks of shoulder and back injuries. 

Here are a few simple considerations:

  • Keep lifts between knee and shoulder height.
  • Limit weight to 35 pounds and consider lift assist devices such as vacuum lifts for greater loads.
  • Avoid placing work on the floor. Double up pallets to raise load platform.
  • Consider dynamic pallet lifts to keep the load in the best position.
  • Anything lifted manually over 35 pounds should be a two person lift.

 

 

 


The Workplace Is Dynamic, Don't Be Left Sitting Still

BrownPosted by Allan M Brown, LPT, MEMIC Chief Ergonomist

Over the past 50 years there has been a shift from active to more sedentary job tasks with a steady decline in energy expenditure at work as sedentary occupations have increased from 50% to 80% of all work. The negative impact of this change is slowly making its way into our daily lives. Instead of aches and pains from heavy lifting and manual work, our morbidity is increasing because of inactivity.

Unfortunately, from a research perspective this is old news. A landmark study completed in 1953 compared coronary heart disease of conductors and drivers of double-decker buses. The drivers spent almost the whole day seated and driving while the conductors were consistently on their feet moving up and down the bus steps. The most sedentary of the bus drivers had double the risk of coronary heart disease compared to the most active conductors. As far back as the 1600’s aches and pains from clerks and cobblers constantly sitting were documented by the Italian physician Bernardo Ramazzini, in his book De Morbis Artificum Diatriba (Disease of Workers).

The role of getting up and moving around plays a huge role in our overall wellness. This non‐exercise activity of moving around at work and home is being greatly reduced in our daily routines because of technology and sedentary jobs. Research shows our bodies are changing because of a decrease in movement throughout the day - our risk of obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, and cardiovascular disease appear to be on the rise because of our sedentary work habits and life styles.

As this perfect storm brews, employers are scrambling to find solutions to reduce their exposure to declining health in the work place. A plethora of products and information has hit the market. Sit/stand work stations, ball chairs, treadmill desks, personal activity trackers, standing apps, and “sitting is the new smoking” are the things we hear and see in the news. As an employer it is hard to figure out what is credible and actually has a benefit.

This new awareness of sit/stand workstations is promising but there needs to be a larger strategy to reduce sedentary behavior in the workplace. Standing is just as static as sitting. But it is the ability to change position that creates the opportunity for wellness at the desk. Dr. Jack Dennerlein, PhD. Professor, Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says we need to look beyond the office physical plan to a much broader approach addressing policies, programs, and practices to combat the sedentary workplace.

Our challenge as employers is to educate our employees and make them aware of these trends and separate the marketing chaff from the substantive solutions. In the long run, transitioning a sedentary office to an active, dynamic work environment should be the goal. Current research is helping change the attitude of sitting and sedentary work. For an employer the commitment to change is an investment with the goal of a positive return. For the employee the change will improve their health and quality (and quantity) of life.

For more information related to ergonomics in the workplace, check out previous Safety Net posts by searching “ergonomics” or “sit stand”. OSHA provides a Computer Workstations eTool with helpful guidelines for office setup, and MEMIC policyholders can also access a wealth of information including professional workstation evaluations within the MEMIC Safety Director.

(Thanks to all our readers who nominated MEMIC Safety Net as one of the best blogs in the field of workers' comp, we are now ranked as one of the top two safety/prevention blogs!)

image from www.quill.com


Why the Scaleni Deserve a Good Stretch

  Greg LaRochelle 2014 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

Scaleni what? While the scaleni (plural), or scalene muscles, aren’t as familiar as the pecs, abs, and biceps, or for that matter the glutes, quads, and triceps, they are an important muscle group from the standpoint of their location in relationship to a major neurovascular bundle. The scaleni are comprised of the anterior, middle, and posterior scalene muscles which originate from the transverse processes of the cervical vertebrae and descend at a slight angle to insert on either the first or second rib. As paired, lateral neck muscles, they are flexors and rotators of the head and neck and also function as accessory muscles of inspiration. Passing between the anterior and middle scalene is the brachial plexus of nerves and the subclavian artery. The brachial plexus innervates the upper extremity and the subclavian artery supplies blood to the arms with some branches of the right vessel supplying a portion of the head and thorax.

Blog Neck Image

With today’s prevalence of computer and cell phone use, a forward head posture is oftentimes assumed which together with a lack of back muscle strength can lead to contracted scalene and pectoralis muscles.  This taut condition can lead to compression on the neurovascular bundle where it passes through the anterior and middle scalene muscles. Clinically, this is described as thoracic outlet syndrome with pain exhibited in the hand, forearm, upper arm, or pectoral region. The symptoms of pain in the hand can be similar to that of carpal tunnel syndrome with aching, burning, numbness, and a pins and needles sensation or paresthesia.

While stretching is not a substitute for a comprehensive ergonomics program, as an adjunct, a micro-stretch exercise program can afford some relief to muscle fatigue by inviting increased blood flow into the tissue. Specifically for the scalene muscles, the shoulders need to remain in a relaxed, neutral position while tilting the head to the side to approximate the ear towards the shoulder with a 10 second hold at the end of range of motion then repeated for the other side. A “reach for the sky” stretch with arms extended up over the head followed by slowly lowering the arms down to the side of the torso is beneficial for stretching the pectoralis muscles and opening the chest.

For more information on stretching, check out MEMIC’s Safety Director Resource Library.


Three Tips for Using a Mouse

Scott Valorose 2014 Posted by Scott Valorose, CPE, CSP

The following tips should be considered when using your current mouse. These tips are frequently provided during ergonomic assessments as location and use are common contributors of aches and pains. Conduct a self assessment and implement these tips as often as possible.

  1. Location, Location, Location.  Locate the mouse close or in the “mouse zone” – It should be located as close as possible to you and the keyboard, preferably at or near elbow height. Its location should enable the elbow to rest near one’s side. The arm should rest comfortably without outward rotation. The hand should extend from the forearm relatively straight. Priorities around tasks and placement of devices or paperwork may need to be considered. Locating the mouse to one’s non-dominate side is also an option to help keep the mouse close.
  2. Movement.  Move the mouse using the arm – Shared movement with the shoulder and elbow helps distribute repeated motions across multiple joints, tendons, and muscles. Minimize prolonged or constant arm or wrist support to help free up the arm and stop isolated wrist or finger motions. Consider adjusting the Motion pointer speed commonly located under Mouse Properties / Pointer Options.
  3. Grip. Grip the mouse lightly – Partially rest your hand and fingers on the mouse. Avoid pinching it between the thumb and pinky and do not keep the remaining fingers raised off the mouse while navigation, searching, or similar activities.

If more information is needed, consider reviewing the following sources:

If these tips cannot be implemented, it is possible other devices or changes may be necessary.

 


Sherlock Holmes, the Ergonomist

Maureen-Anderson Posted by Maureen Graves Anderson, M.Sc, CPE

I don’t wear a deerstalker cap nor do I smoke a pipe. Even though I don’t look like Sherlock Holmes, I am inspired by the fictional detective when I perform ergonomic evaluations in the office setting. Let’s pretend that Sherlock Holmes is evaluating your office environment.

When Sherlock meets with people to start the ergonomic evaluation, he not only listens to their description of the problem, but looks for clues.

  • Is the telephone headset dusty? Even though the person claims they use it, Sherlock knows better.
  • Is the chair-mat worn through in one place?  This is a clue that the user sits in the chair as they roll around their work area, rather than getting up and out of their chair.
  • Are the arms on the chair dented and ripped? This may indicate the arms on the chair bang into the office desk, preventing the person from pulling in close to the desk.
  • Is the footrest out of reach of the feet? This means they are not using it.
  • Is there a coffee cup or water bottle on the desk? This means they drink plenty of fluids. It also may indicate they get up frequently to refill the cup and to go to the restrooms.
  • Is there a pair of sneakers under the desk? This is a clue that they may take a walk during breaks. This is a good sign.
  • Is their evidence that they eat lunch at their desk? This is a clue that they are spending too much time sitting at the desk looking at a monitor.
  • Is the keyboard placed on top of papers? This may mean they reach over the papers to the keyboard. Perhaps an inline document holder is necessary.
  • Are there sweaters or blankets piled on the back of the chair? Is there a fan in the work area? This may mean that there are uncomfortable temperature variations in the work environment.
  • If there are no curtains or shades, are there miscellaneous papers taped to the windows? Ah ha! Glare may be the problem.
  • Is the printer on the desk? Hmmm, another observation that the person may not get up and out of the chair often enough.

When it comes to the bodily clues, Sherlock consults with his trusty assistant Dr. Watson:

  • Discomfort on the outside of elbow? This may be due to using the mouse outside the “mouse zone”.
  • Discomfort in the neck and shoulders? Poor head posture may be the culprit. Sherlock checks to see if they have a document holder and a telephone headset. These 2 devices greatly help head posture in the office setting.
  • Discomfort between the shoulder blades? This can be a clue that there is excessive reaching during the workday. Is the keyboard and mouse close to the torso?

So Sherlock has completed the ergonomic evaluation. His keen observational skills have resulted in recommendations that will greatly improve the comfort and safety of the workstation. He puts away his magnifying glass, dons his cape coat and moves on to the next mystery! If you have an ergonomic mystery to solve, check out our e-Ergo resources within the MEMIC Safety Director.

A special nod to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book , The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.


Determining Your Power Grip Size

Allan Brown 2014 Posted by Allan Brown, PT

Hands come in different sizes and shapes.  When choosing a tool for the job picking a tool that fits your hand makes the work more efficient.  A handle too large or too small will cause early fatigue because of over or under gripping.  How do you decide what is the right size tool for you? 

The first step is to determine the size of your hand.  According to: Champney 1979: Muller Borer1981: NASA 1978; The 50th percentile hand length for male is 7.5”, female 7.2”.  Grip diameter 1.9” male, 1.7” female

To measure your hand size measure the distance from your wrist crease to the tip of your middle finger with the palm open. (see image below)   You will use this figure to determine your grip sizeHand 2

Take 20% of your hand size to determine your grip diameter.  For example if your hand size is 7.5” multiply it by .20 for your grip size. (7.5”X.20=1.5”) so your grip diameter is 1.5”.

HandYou can check this number by making a circle with your index and thumb and measuring the distance across the circle.  It should be close to the figure you calculated for your grip diameter.

Once you know your grip diameter you can calculate your grip size.  Simply multiply your grip diameter by 3.14 (aka Pi) for your grip size.  In the example above grip diameter 1.5”X3.14=4.7”grip size

Once you know your grip diameter and grip size you can select tools that fit your hand and will be more efficient to use.  For a power grip like hammering NIOSH recommends tool handle diameters between 1.25” – 2”.  Use your grip diameter and find the tool handle closest to your size.  Handles can be built up with tape or foam padding to increase their diameter.

See NIOSH’s link below for a booklet on how to select non-powered hand tools.

http://www.choosehandsafety.org/choosing-hand-tools/hand-tool-size

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-164/pdfs/2004-164.pdf


Not All Mice Are Created Equal

Maureen-Anderson Posted by: Maureen Graves-Anderson

As an ergonomist, one of the most common complaints centers on the computer mouse. This necessary evil of computer input is the bane of so many workers, across all industries, men and women, young and old. It all boils down to one question: “Which mouse should I use?” Unfortunately, there is no one answer. Like everything else in ergonomics, there is no one-size-fits-all. Here are some hints to help you decide the best option for you.

  1. Hand position – a more neutral hand position (palm on side) is generally more comfortable than the typical prone position (palm down). Studies have shown the neutral position uses less muscle activity.
  2. Size – a size closer matched to your hand size also results in less muscle activity. Beware the tiny portable mouse; a 2008 study found it had a high rate of awkward positions of the hand and high muscle activity. Those tiny mice should only be used for short durations.
  3. Connectivity – many struggle with cords that are too short or heavy. Cordless mice are better but bring along problems with managing batteries that seem to need frequent changes. Those batteries always seem to die when you are in the middle of an important task. If you are using a corded mouse, ensure the cable is long enough so you can use the mouse in the proper location. 
  4. Task – you need to consider what you are doing with your computer mouse. Are you doing precise motions such as CAD or art work? Are you browsing the internet? Different tasks may lead you to a different mouse selection. Technology magazines and websites often cover the latest and greatest computer input devices.

Now that you have your perfect mouse, don’t forget that your behavior is the biggest factor in reducing risks from using the computer mouse. The best equipment does no good if you don’t use it properly or follow ergonomic guidelines. Here are some tips:

  1. Grip – the mouse should fit comfortably in your hand, and should take minimal gripping force to operate. Don’t clutch that mouse in a death grip or awkward claw grip.
  2. Duration – take frequent micro-breaks and change work tasks so that you give your hands a break. If you are under pressure to complete tasks, we know that the muscular activity associated with the mouse increases. One study showed a 140% increase in wrist forces when faced with mental and precision stressors!
  3. Location – make sure that new mouse is located properly. It should be directly in front of your body. Your arm should not be rotated outwards to use the mouse. The mouse should be on the same plane as the keyboard. If you use a keyboard tray, ensure that the tray can fit your mouse and provide a stable platform for use.
  4. Seek alternatives – can you accomplish your task with less mouse use? Can you use keyboard short cuts? Can you use the mouse with the opposite hand?

In summary, you and your co-workers are unique and one computer mouse cannot satisfy all. Consider my suggestions when you select your next computer mouse. You can also check out the ergonomic resources available online within the MEMIC Safety Director.

Sources:

Best Mice of 2014, PC Magazine, Feb 13, 2014

Hengel et al, Smaller external notebook mice have different effects on posture and muscle activity, Clinical Biomechanics, July 2008

Visser et al, Effects of precision demands and mental pressure on muscle activation and hand forces in computer mouse tasks, Ergonomics, Vol. 47, Issue 2, 2004


The Little Things Can Make The Difference

Allan Brown 2014 Posted by Allan Brown

Back pain is something that most of us will experience sometime in our lives.  Often the cause of back pain is misunderstood.  The perception is we have to be lifting something heavy to cause an injury.  Often it is the little things we do on a daily basis that initiates the injury process, and it may be the lift or twist that is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. 

BackPainTips

Here are some thoughts and facts: 

  • Sitting places up to 50% more force on the back as compared to standing erect.
  • Prolonged sitting or standing with a forward head or slightly bent forward position increases the pressure on the lumbar disc and temporarily changes the location disc pressure to the back wall of the disc next to spinal nerve roots.
  • We live in a world of gravity that continually acts on our body.  In space where there is reduced or no gravity the average height gain of an astronaut is 3 inches.
  • Poor posture, tight muscles, and weak core strength contribute to the risk of back injuries.  Our body sags in response to gravity adding stress to our back.
  • Pain, tingling and numbness can go from the back to your foot and anywhere in between.  Often the cause of this pain is in your back. 
  • Heavy and awkward lifting can be contributors to back pain.
  • A cough, sneeze or forced exertion can increase back pain. 

What can you do?

  • Take stock of your daily behaviors and posture.  Do you walk, sit and stand in good posture?
  • Adjust your seat to fit your posture.  Does the back support fill the inward curve of your low back?  Do you sit back in the seat and up on your pelvis?
  • Eliminate all lifts from the floor.
  • Set your work bench up to reduce any extended reaches and awkward bending.
  • After a prolonged drive the first thing you should do is get out of the car and perform a couple gentle back bends before doing any lifting.
  • As you age your body changes.  Muscles weaken and shorten.   Stretching and strengthening can help slow this change.  Maintaining good posture, core strength and flexibility will slow these changes. 
  • Good sleep and good food are essential to healthy body.

Enter The Neutral Zone

LaRochelle Greg 1 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

If Rod Serling, the creator and narrator of the original television series, The Twilight Zone (circa 1959-1964), portrayed an ergonomist, he would likely begin his show with the following:

“You unlock this door with the key of posture awareness.  Inside it is another dimension: a dimension not only of muscle and bone but of nerves, tendons, and ligaments; a journey into a wondrous region whose boundaries are that of limited reach and minimal stress.  Your next stop…The Neutral Zone.”

The handbook, Fundamentals and Assessment Tools for Occupational Ergonomics, cites a definition of neutral zone as “the part of the range of physiological motion, measured from the neutral position, within which the motion is produced with a minimal internal resistance.”  The University of Connecticut’s Occupational and Environmental Health Center describes neutral posture as the resting position of each joint in which there is the least tension or pressure on nerves, tendons, muscles, and bones.  It’s also the position in which muscles are at their resting length where maximum force is developed most efficiently.

Applying the neutral zone principle to workstations establishes a boundary of 18 to 24 inches for the placement of most frequently used items such as the keyboard, mouse, phone, and pen & pencil container.  A simple way of defining this boundary without use of a tape measure or ruler is to hold your forearms horizontally over the work surface with elbows against your torso, sweeping your hands back and forth like windshield wipers.  Less frequently used items such as reference books, desk organizers, and electric calculators should be situated within a secondary zone of 24 to 36 inches and slid closer when needed.  Personal effects such as photos of the family and pets should be located furthest away. 

By querying MEMIC's Safety Net Blog page with the word “neutral” in the search field, several archived posts appear with links to the main article.  One in particular, titled Ten Tips for a Perfect Fit, provides sound advice on achieving ergonomic comfort at the workstation.  So read this and related posts and enter The Neutral Zone!