mesh_back_chairThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA was formed in 1971 by the Department of Labor to protect workers from on the job hazards, providing rules and regulations by which employers are expected to adhere. Its main duty is to keep employees safe by providing appropriate safety regulations and training that govern all United State industries from construction work to jobs with little apparent risk such as office work. As odd as it may sound, there are very high rates of work related injuries in seemingly innocent jobs like office work, mostly due to a lack of ergonomic seating at unfit workstations.

Computer Workstation Equipment

Since it is OSHA’s job to protect employees from potential on-the-job injury and illness, the organization is up-to-date on current study findings regarding ergonomics and how the right workstations can prevent injury. In an effort to reduce workplace injury among office workers, OSHA compiled a guide detailing the topic. The computer workstations information page includes a checklist of information that recommends which type of office furniture should be used and why as well as a complete component breakdown pinpointing desirable features and why they help to prevent workplace injury. Additionally, information is provided on employee training so that all ergonomic seating is properly used and will actually perform as expected.

Ergonomic Seating

Seating is one of the main topics covered in OSHA’s guide to ergonomics in the office for a good reason. Although ergonomic desks and computers are very important, it is seating that actually has the biggest effect on the body – and can cause the most harm if substandard. OSHA recognizes the numerous hazards that improper seating can cause and offers numerous ergonomic seating suggestions for avoidance of any problems:

  • Chair Seat – Incorrectly sized or height-adjusted seats can create having to either sit at the edge of the seat leaving the back unsupported or cause leg discomfort due to a too small or too large seat pan. Solutions include ensuring the seat has: enough height adjustment for individual usage; adjustable seat pan shape and construction; and the use of footrests to help alleviate some concerns.
  • Armrests – OSHA recommends armrests to keep neck and back fatigue down and to help promote good seated position, warning against armrests that are non-adjustable. It is important for armrests to be neither too high or too wide-set that would contribute to poor posture rather than combat it. Correctly positioned armrests are just high and wide enough that a user’s arms naturally rest on them and movement is not affected. OSHA recommends removing non-adjustable armrests or replacing them with properly adjusting ones.
  • Backrest – Maintaining a natural spinal curve while seated is the main job of backrests, so chairs without adjustable lumbar support backrests should be avoided. In order to obtain the best position based on the person and the seat height, backrests should be height adjustable as well as able to move forward or back to get the right degree of support. OSHA recommends using a rolled-up towel behind the back or a lumbar support insert when adjustment is not available.
  • Chair Base – Wheeled office chairs should always have five or more legs extending from the base to prevent tipping over as well as casters that are made for the type of floor surface being used. Using a chair with casters not made for the surface can prevent freedom of movement and increase strains and other related injuries. Chairs should move almost effortlessly without having to be pushed.

Although this is only basic information about ergonomic seating, OSHA guidelines are a great place to begin when evaluating current work areas and their actual fitness for use. The importance of the use of ergonomic chairs cannot be overemphasized as well as the vital role played by OSHA to help workers received the best seating for each individual person and job!

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