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General – Computer Ergonomics

  • Content last reviewed: November 2010

Extended work with computers can lead to muscular fatigue and discomfort, usually in the back, arms, shoulders and neck. As well, if the computer is used for prolonged periods in awkward postures, there is a risk of musculoskeletal injury (MSI). This risk increases as the intensity of computer work increases. Frequently, the source of muscular fatigue and discomfort is the operator's posture while working at the terminal, and this posture is due in turn to the layout of the computer workstation and the furniture provided. The specific tasks and the intensity of the work are also factors.

Computer operators may experience visual as well as muscular fatigue and discomfort. Symptoms include eyestrain, burning eyes, blurred vision and headaches. The layout of the computer workstation can increase the visual demands on operators, as can lighting levels and glare.

This guideline discusses the factors affecting both the physical and the visual demands on people who work with computers. It addresses the layout of workstations, covering the relevant parts of the computer (keyboard, monitor, mouse, etc.) and related furniture and aids (chairs, desks, document holders, etc.). It also addresses lighting in the work environment and task design for computer work. There is also a section regarding portable computers, or laptop computers. The checklist provided at the end will allow the reader to make a point-by-point review of each computer workstation in a workplace.

The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Guideline on Office Ergonomics (CSA-Z412-00) was referenced in the preparation of this document. Readers requiring more detail should consult the CSA guideline.

View CSA standards

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