Work Station Evaluation

With increased work demands, a more pressing need for good ergonomic practice in our offices is necessary. Northwestern University recognizes that ergonomics – fitting the job to the person – can help reduce work injuries, improve employee morale, and improve office productivity.

People do not perform their best in poorly designed work environments. A deficient work environment may lead to aches and pains for employees. In the most severe situations, performance is drastically compromised and long-term disability injuries may develop.

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Ergonomic Evaluations & Services

To schedule a service below, or for help minimizing risk factors, please call Risk Management at 1-4106 and ask for Jim Grosh.

  • Office ergonomic evaluations to any NU faculty or staff. The evaluations are typically done on an individual basis and take approximately twenty minutes. A representative from the Office of Risk Management will review the basics of office ergonomics and workstation set up. Appropriate adjustments and/or recommendations will be provided, along with a written evaluation. If recommendations include any new purchases, it is the responsibility of the individual's department to make them. The recommendations are usually to modify existing workstations as cost effectively as possible.
  • Presentations regarding office ergonomics if a department has several (five or more) interested individuals. The presentation includes a 20 to 30 minute talk featuring the key aspects of office ergonomics and, if requested, individual evaluations are provided. The individual evaluations would then only take approximately ten minutes for each person. Departments requesting such evaluations should provide a room and an overhead projector.

Posture Guidelines

Improper posture is often caused by:

  • Poor equipment design
  • Incorrect adjustments or poor positioning of equipment
  • Any combination of the above

Neck: Eye level should be horizontally aligned with the top of the monitor. The distance from the eyes to the screen should be 18” to 24”.

Arms: Position the armrests 0.5’” below the working elbow height. Keep frequently used items within 16” of the body.

Wrists/Hands: Elbow and wrist should be the same height. The keyboard should be flat or tilted slightly away from the employee. Hands should float over the keyboard when typing, not rest on the palm rest.

Back: Both upper and lower back should make contact with backrest, with the backrest height adjusted to fit the curvature of the spine.

Feet: Feet should be flat on the floor or in full contact with a footrest.

Test Your Workstation

Add up the points. The lowest possible score is 28 points and the highest possible score is 128 points. The goal is to get to the lowest practical score.

  1. When seated, the top of my computer screen is:
    • At or below eye level (2 points)
    • Slightly above eye level (4 points)
    • Significantly above eye level (8 points)
  2. When typing at my computer, to see the monitor I look:
    • Directly ahead (2 points)
    • Slightly to one side by moving my eyes (4 points)
    • To one side by moving my head (8 points)
  3. When facing the monitor or screen I am:
    • Facing an area of approximately the same color and brightness as the monitor (2 points)
    • Facing a window or extremely bright area (8 points)
    • A window or extremely bright area is directly behind you (8 points)
  4. The primary screen used has:
    • A very light background with dark characters similar to print on paper (2 points)
    • A light colored background with darker characters (4 points)
    • A dark colored or black background with light characters (8 points)
  5. The images/characters on my screen appear to be:
    • Sharp and clear (2 points)
    • Fuzzy and out of focus (8 points)
  6. The monitor screen is provided with an anti-glare filter.
    • Yes (2 points)
    • No (8 points)
  7. When using input documents, they are located:
    • On a document holder between the monitor and keyboard (2 points)
    • On a document holder at the same distance and next to the screen (4 points)
    • On a document holder but not at the same distance nor next to the screen (6 points)
    • Flat on the work surface either in front or to the side of the screen (8 points)
  8. When using a mouse, it is normally located:
    • My computer has no mouse (0 points)
    • On a holder, at approximately elbow height, next to the keyboard (2 points)
    • On a holder next to the keyboard, but not at elbow height (4 points)
    • On a holder at elbow height but not next to the keyboard (4 points)
    • On the main work surface, in front of the keyboard and above elbow height (8 points)
  9. When seated, the relative position of my keyboard is:
    • At approximately elbow height (2 points)
    • Slightly above or below elbow height (4 points)
    • Significantly above or below elbow height (8 points)
  10. The keyboard holding area is provided with a palm rest.
    • Yes (2 points)
    • No (4 points)
  11. When using the telephone, I normally:
    • I don't have a telephone at my workstation (0 points)
    • Use a telephone headset (2 points)
    • Use a telephone shoulder rest or hold the phone to your ear with one hand (4 points)
    • Hold the phone to your ear with your shoulder, without a shoulder rest (8 points)
  12. The height of my chair can be adjusted by:
    • A lever located under the edge of the chair (2 points)
    • Standing up and spinning the chair counter clockwise to raise and clockwise to lower (4 points)
    • The height is not adjustable or the height adjustment is broken (8 points)
  13. When seated at the computer, my feet normally:
    • Rest on the floor or a footrest (2 points)
    • Rest on the chair support (4 points)
    • Tend to “dangle” and not comfortably reach the floor (8 points)
  14. When seated at the computer, my back:
    • Is supported by the backrest of the chair (2 points)
    • Is supported by a pillow or cushion placed between my back and the chair’s backrest (4 points)
    • Is not supported by the chair nor a cushion (8 points)
  15. The edges of my workstation, keyboard, or keyboard tray against which I may lean are:
    • Padded (2 points)
    • Rounded, but not padded (4 points)
    • Sharp, right angles (8 points)
  16. When seated at the computer, I feel that my chair:
    • Fits me comfortably (2 points)
    • Is too small for me (8 points)
    • Is too large for me (8 points)

Anywhere you scored higher than 2 points, if feasible, make appropriate adjustments to minimize your risk factors.