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Work Station Arrangement

With the extensive use of computers and other automated desk devices in the workplace, employees must take special care to ensure proper workstation arrangement. For the purpose of this manual, a workstation consists of the equipment and furniture associated with a typical desk job (i.e., desk, chair, and computer components).

In recent years, computer screens or Video Display Terminals (VDT's) have received much attention concerning non-ionizing radiation levels. Tests prove, however, that VDT's do not emit harmful levels of radiation. Improper workstation arrangement combined with repetitive motion, however, may contribute to visual and musculoskeletal fatigue.

Cumulative trauma disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome may result from the stress of repetitive motion. Therefore, it is very important to arrange your workstation properly and to take breaks frequently.

The following sections offer recommendations for ensuring employee comfort through proper workstation arrangement.

Operator's Position
Operator's Position

Operator's Position

Your seating position at work is important to your comfort and safety. To reduce the painful effects of repetitive motion, follow these guidelines when working with computers or typewriters:

  • Always sit up straight. Make sure your chair is adjusted to provide adequate support to your back.
  • Place your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest. Lower legs should be approximately vertical, and thighs should be approximately horizontal. The majority of your weight should be on the buttocks.
  • Ensure that there is at least 1 inch of clearance between the top of your thighs and the bottom of the desk or table.
  • Keep your wrists in a natural position. They should not rest on the edge of the desk.
  • Keep the front edge of your chair approximately 4 inches behind your knees.

Equipment Arrangement

By properly arranging your equipment, you can also help reduce the harmful effects of repetitive motion. Follow these guidelines for arranging office equipment:

  • Lighting:
    • Lighting around computer workstations should illuminate the work area without obscuring the VDT or causing glare.
    • Position computer screens, draperies, blinds, and pictures to reduce glare during work hours (e.g., place the VDT screen at a right angle to the window).
  • VDT Screen:
    • VDT images should be clear and well defined.
    • Adjust the screen's brightness, contrast and display size to meet your needs.
    • If a screen flickers or jumps, have it repaired or replaced.
    • Place the VDT 20-28 inches away from your face.
    • The center of the VDT should be approximately 15 to 25 degrees below your line of vision.
  • Keyboards:
    • Position computer keyboards so that the angle between the forearm and upper arm is between 80 and 120 degrees.
    • Place the keyboard in an area that is accessible and comfortable.
  • Wrist Support:
    • Use wrist supports made of a padded material.
    • The support should allow you to type without bending your wrists.
  • Document Holders:
    • Keep documents at approximately the same height and distance from your face as the VDT screen.
  • Telephones:
    • Neck tension is a common problem caused by holding the telephone between the head and neck.
    • Use a headset or speakerphone if you use the telephone for extended periods of time.


May 2011
Reviewed November 2014