Working with computer monitors

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    Working with computer monitors could cause various health complaints such as headaches, neck pains, with similar symptoms in the wrists, arms, back and eyes. This folder explains the origins of health complaints and how one can recognise and perhaps prevent such symptoms. Additionally, you will find information on what to do if you experience such problems.

    What causes have health complaints? Much research has gone into finding the

    nature and cause of such disorders. At

    present, we know that health complaints can

    develop by repeating the same motions too

    frequently while working. These motions are

    common in certain professions, for example,

    in painters, packers, plasterers, musicians,

    hairdressers and people who work with

    monitors. The chances of developing health

    complaints are greater with heavy workloads,

    poor posture and incorrect work procedures.

    A combination of work and hobbies, such as

    painting your house or surfing the Internet,

    could cause health complaints. Whether one

    actually develops complaints will depend on

  • ones physical fitness and work procedures.

    Some people suffer such disorders; others do

    not. At first, the pain goes away, only to return

    at a later stage when it continues during the

    evening and, ultimately, beyond the weekend.

    Recuperation is often time consuming and the

    symptoms reappear quickly.

    The following sections describe what you can

    do to prevent or limit health complaints.

    Health complaints and Working with

    Computer Monitors

    In tackling health complaints for people who

    work with monitors, the following aspects are


    Work tasks Working times Workload Workstations Work procedures

    Work tasks and times

    To reduce possible symptoms, it is important

    to alternate regularly between working with

    monitors and other tasks. Examples of other

    activities include answering the telephone,

    delivering the post, holding progress

    discussions or making photocopies, reading

    and writing. For those who cannot alternate

    tasks, it is important to take a ten-minute

    break once an hour. Taking half-hour breaks

    would be even better! If it were possible to

    alternate between working at a monitor and

    doing other jobs, then a short break every two

    hours would be desirable. Tasks involving the

    use of computer monitors should not exceed

    five or six hours a day.


    Various factors can cause one to feel the pressures of work. The pressure of work occur, for example, when the work is tied to

    deadlines or when the task at hand requires more from you than you can handle. Other causes are work relationships with colleagues and managers and frequent interruptions during work. If you suffer from these, discuss the problem areas with your manager and try

    to resolve them together Occasionally experiencing work pressure is not a problem. This works to dispel the

    days boredom. In such situations, try to do your work in a relaxed manner. If this does not work, a training course in learning to cope with the pressures of work could help.


    Arrange your workstation so that you can assume a relaxing working posture. Points of interest are the desksize, the chair, the position and settings of the monitor, along with the keyboard, mouse, incoming daylight and the location of lighting fixtures. It is also important to organise the material on ones desk, so there are no unnecessary items and so you do not have to search endlessly for the items you need. Below is a discussion of things to bear in mind when buying or using various work materials. This folder includes a checklist for an individual assessment of how to set up your workstation.

    1.1.1 The Desk

  • Your desk should be spacious enough to accommodate a monitor with a keyboard and a mouse. In addition, should provide sufficient space for other materials. When working with computer monitors, the lower arms should have ample room to rest on the desktop.

    In order to work directly in front of the

    monitor, it is important that there are no

    obstacles under the desk that restrict leg

    movement or keep you from stretching your

    legs. You should be able to sit with your chair

    close to the desk, so you dont have to sit on

    the edge of your seat. This requires a desk

    whose right side is at least 60 centimetres and

    a desk chair with short armrests. There are

    additional requirements for the layout of CAD

    workstations. Although these are not

    discussed here, you can obtain information on

    these requirements from the AMD.

    The Desk Chair

    A good desk chair will have vertically

    adjustable seats and armrests. The seat depth

    should be capable of being adjusted by the

    seat itself. Some chairs also have horizontally

    adjustable armrests. Adjust the chair to

    provide adequate support for your thighs, the

    small of the back and your arms. Make sure

    that the back support does not interfere with

    your shoulders. The adjustment you choose

    should depend entirely on your height and

    posture. Slender people should always choose

    chairs with horizontally adjustable armrests.

    This means that the distance between the

    armrests can be reduced. A more active sitting

    posture is possible using chairs with synchro-

    mechanisms (wobble position). However, not

    everyone finds this comfortable. Desk chairs

    should meet the minimum standards of the

    Dutch standard (NPR 1813, 2004). Among

    other things, this standard prescribes the

    adjustment reach of the seat, chair back and

    armrests, along with the required


    1.1.2 The Monitor Nowadays desktop monitors are increasingly larger. Besides larger screens, such monitors have greater depths. The required reading distance is also greater. The recommended viewing distance for a 15-inch monitor is between 55 and 75 centimetres; for a 19-inch screen, between 70 and 95 centimetres. In general, one can say that the larger the monitor, the deeper the desk should be. In such cases, a standard desk of 80 centimetres will not be wide enough. When desks are wider or deeper, they could interfere with the walking space around your desk. Before buying a new monitor, find out whether you really need such a monitor for the work that you do.

    Place the monitor directly in front of you, with

    the top edge of the screen at eye level.

    Smaller monitors will have to be elevated.

    Larger monitors can usually be placed on a

    desk without raising the height.

    The ideal contrast is one in which no daylight

    or light from other sources reflects on the

    screen. Looking directly into the light will

    make reading from the screen more difficult.

    The Keyboard and Mouse In general, standard, rectangular qwerty keyboard is satisfactory. Avoid hitting the keys with too much force. This could cause problems.

    The mouse should fit comfortably in the hand.

    This is usually the case if the mouse is not too

    thick or when it is symmetrical in shape with

    no sharp edges. The speed of the mouse

    should be aligned to personal use and the

    cord should be sufficiently long. Regularly

    clean the mouse mechanism to avoid

    unnecessary hand or arm movements. It is

    difficult to say whether a so-called ergonomic

    mouse, a trackball, or pen would be more

    suitable for you personally. If necessary,

  • consult your company doctor or your ARBO


    Notebook/laptop If you work longer than two hours a day with a notebook / laptop, additional accessories such as a laptop support and a separate keyboard and mouse are required.

    Other Risk Factors Avoid working in cold air currents. Do not position your desk too close to a window or other supply air defuser. If noise is a problem at your place of work, try to find out what causes it. Consult your colleagues and supervisors on ways to solve the problem.

    Work Procedures Here are several brief tips for developing good work habits. First, adjust your chair to suit your height.

    Do not worry about the height of your desk. The thighs should be horizontal and your feet on the floor directly in front of you.

    Adjust the seat depth of the chair and the height of the chair back and armrests. Make sure that the backs of the knees remain free with good support in the small of your back. The armrests should not push the arms up.

    Then adjust the desk chair for the correct working height. The armrests will be at the same level as the desktop. If your feet do not rest flatly on the floor, use a footrest. Do not use the frame of the chair as a foot support!

    Your lower arms should rest on the armrests or on the desktop. Make sure that this does not push your shoulders up.

    Keep your hands and wrists in a neutral position, if possible. Do not turn your hands too much in one direction or the other and do not lift your hands when using the mouse or typing.

    Do not use excessive pressure when hitting the keys!

    Sit straight and make sure that the monitor is not too low or too high. The top edge of the screen should be at eye level.

    Consider using a document holder beside or under the screen. This will do away with the need to bend the neck for long periods.

    Do not clamp the telephone between your head and shoulder. You should wear a headset for frequent telephone use.

    Try to adopt a relaxed working position. Alternate your normal work regularly with

    other tasks. Switch hands regularly when using the

    mouse. Take short breaks now and then and do

    relaxation exercises. Summary: How can you prevent health complaints?

    Alternate work with monitors regularly with other tasks!

    Take short breaks every hour, but more frequent shorter breaks are better. There are also software programs available that can remind those who work with monitors to take breaks.

    Regularly do relaxation exercises for the neck, shoulders and arms. See the examples from the instruction form.

    Never work longer than six hours a day with computer monitors.

    When there is excessive workload, consult your supervisor to find a solution. A supplementary possibility is training in learning to cope with the pressures of work.

    Seek assistance if you have trouble relaxing.

    Adopt a relaxed working position and work procedures.

    Make sure your workplace is well arranged. Use this folder as a guide and go through the checklist to assess ways of working with computer monitors.

    Treat the first physical symptoms seriously. Early symptoms can be treated.

  • Where can you obtain additional information?

    AMD internetpagina:

    Arbocatalogus Universiteiten:

    Arbocatalogus Universitair Medische Centra:

    RSI patintenvereniging:

    RSI startpagina:

    How can the AMD help you? At the request of managers, AMD can provide the following: 1. Group briefings and instruction about

    computer monitors. 2. Courses on how to cope with stress. 3. Workplace research in the area of layout

    and work position.

    If you have symptoms or questions, you

    should contact your


    This checklist is a tool for assess your workstation. If you would like a more detailed evaluation,

    please consult the AMD checklist at the following Web site:

    These lists were especially developed for people who work with computer monitors.

    The Desk Chair

    Yes No 1. Is the sitting height vertically adjustable?

    2. Can the sitting depth be adjusted with the seat?

    3. Is the back support vertically adjustable?

    4. Can the armrests be positioned at elbow height?

    5. Can the chair be pushed right up to the desk?

    6. Does the chair provide sufficient support to the small of the back?

    7. Is the desk chair stable and does it have five wheels?

    Improvement Steps

    If you answered any of the first four questions with no, check to see whether the operating mechanism is defective. If possible, have the mechanism repaired or replaced. On request, the supplier can arrange to repair or replace the chair. If you answered several questions with no, ask the Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) officer (Preventiemedewerker Arbo & Milieu (PAM)) in your department for assistance. If it is necessary or desirable to have a new chair, it should meet the minimum requirements of the Netherlands Standard (NPR 1813, 2004). Requests to repair or replace chairs should be made via your manager or administrator. Desktops for Working at Computer Monitors Answer the following questions and then decide which measures you could take yourself to improve the arrangement.

    Yes No

    1. The monitor and keyboard are positioned in a straight line to each other:

    2. There is at least 10 centimetres of space in front of the keyboard:

    3. The mouse is next to the keyboard, within easy reach:

    4. The desktop provides sufficient work space:

    5. The desktop can be adjusted to proper working height:

    6. There is sufficient leg and foot space under the desk:

    7. The telephone and mouse are on either side of the keyboard: Improvement Steps If you answered these questions with no, try to make minor changes in the setup so that you can answer the above questions in the affirmative. For example, the desktop is not deep enough so that the keyboard cannot be placed in front of the monitor. If you can place two desks together or move your desk slightly away from the wall, it may be possible to obtain the desired depth. Take care that the monitor does not fall off the desk!

  • Make sure that the mouse and keyboard cables are long enough. You could extend the cables or reposition the PC.

    If you are fairly tall, adjust the desktop to the proper working height. For example, place blocks of wood under the desk legs and make sure that the gas spring of your chair can reach this height. If you share your workstation with others, simple vertical height adjustment of the desktop is essential! Ask the OHS officer (AMCP-er) in the department for support.

    Reposition your workstation if table legs or drawers restrict legroom. Remove any unnecessary materials from under your desk.

    The Working Posture A relaxed working posture is important to prevent complaints. Check whether this is possible in your situation by answering the following questions.

    Yes No

    1. Do you often sit obliquely in your chair? If no, go to question 2.

    1.1. The working space for your keyboard and mouse is too limited:

    1.2. The monitor no longer fits in your workstation:

    1.3. The data to be entered are lying diagonally on the desktop:

    1.4. The space under the desk makes it difficult to sit straight:

    1.5. You are bothered by daylight or lamps: Improvement Steps If you answered one or more sub-questions with yes, check to see whether you can change your way of working so that you can answer no to the above questions. Make the changes in consultation with your office colleagues. Some possible improvements:

    Increase the working depth and working space around the monitor. Place the monitor and keyboard in a straight line. Also see the AMD information folder on working at computer monitors.

    Use a document holder beside or under your monitor.

    Remove unnecessary materials from under the desk. Relocate the workstation so that table legs or drawers will not get in the way.

    Make sure you change desktops if the height of your desk, including the supporting structure, is 5-cm or less from the position of your legs.

    Place the monitor squarly to the window. Use a screen or shade to keep out daylight. Tilt the monitor to avoid having lamps reflected on the screen. This will reduce the nuisance.

    Also make sure that the work on your desk is well organised.

    Yes No

    2. Do you often raise your shoulders? If no, go to question 3.

    2.1. The chair is too low with respect to the desktop:

    2.2. The armrests push my arms up:

    2.3. The chair is too far from the desk:

    2.4. Telephoning and monitor work go hand in hand:

    2.5. Your workstation is draughty or cold:

    2.6. There is much work pressure or problems in the working environment:

  • Improvement Steps If you answered one or more of the sub-questions with yes, check to see whether you could change your work procedures. Some possible improvements:

    First, adjust the desk chair properly. See the AMD information folder about working with computer monitors. Use a footrest if the desktop is too high.

    Make sure that your desk chair faces a straight part of the desk so it can be pushed close to the desk. If the armrests are too long, the chair should be replaced. Also see the section entitled The Desk Chair.

    Use a headset if answering the telephone is a main activity.

    Switch hands regularly when using the mouse.

    Do not sit in front of a window or beneath a ventilation supply air defuser (grill).

    Consult with your supervisor about organising the work.

    Yes No

    3. Do you often sit at your monitor in a stooped or slumped position? If no, go to question 4

    3.1. The keyboard is too low or too far away:

    3.2. The desk chair cannot be pushed close to the desk:

    3.3. The lower arms only receive support in this position:

    3.4. The monitor is too low or tilted up:

    3.5. Your view of your screen is obstructed:

    3.6. You find this working position comfortable: Improvement Steps If you answered yes to the first four points, it is important that you reassess the chair settings and the workstation setup. Also see the sections on desk chairs and desktops. Some other possible measures:

    Find out whether your view of the screen is obstructed. There could be multiple causes. One common problem is a strip light directly above a monitor. Such lighting is actually designed for reading and writing. In this situation, you should have the fitting relocated or relocate your monitor workplace. Take suitable action or ask for assistance from the OHS officer (PAM).

    Sitting in a forward-leaning position is habitual and many people find it comfortable. It requires only limited use of back and stomach muscles and seems less tiring. Nevertheless, this posture puts additional loads on other muscles and joints. This also increases pressure on neck and back vertebrae. Try not to work for long periods while leaning forward and avoid extremely bent positions.

    Yes No

    4. Do you often place your feet under instead of in front of the chair? If no, go to In Conclusion.

    4.1. The space under the desk is too limited to stretch my legs:

    4.2. The back support seems to push you forward in your seat:

    4.3. My legs are too short to place my feet flat on the floor:

    4.4. You find this posture comfortable:

  • Improvement Steps If you answered one or more of the sub-questions with yes, find out which measures you could take and implement them in consultation with your office colleagues. Some possible measures:

    Make sure you have sufficient free leg and foot space. Also see the points of interest under number 1.

    Adjust the back support properly. It should not be too high! The small of the back needs proper support. The upper back and shoulders do not require direct support.

    Use a footrest.

    Check to see why you find this posture comfortable. Are you leaning too far forward? Do you otherwise have difficulty reading the text on your computer screen? Is this an alternating working position? Resting your legs under the seat of the chair too often will pinch the blood vessels in the legs. In time, this could lead to complaints.

    In Conclusion If you cannot discuss your questions with the OHS officer (PAM) or if you have additional questions,

    you can consult AMDs OHS adviser. Your department head can arrange for a workstation inspection.


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