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Computers and workstations

Your musculoskeletal system is made up of the structures that support you and help you move, such as bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Poor posture is a common contributing factor to musculoskeletal disorders.

To prevent musculoskeletal disorders, you should be able to adjust your workstation equipment to your needs. Your workstation consists of your desk, chair, monitor, keyboard and mouse. See phones and mobiles for phone setup and safety.

Tips

  • Stand up, sit less, move more.
  • Know how to adjust your workstation.

Potential harm

  • Overuse injury
  • Musculoskeletal disorders

Identified hazards and controls

Desk set up

Cause

  • Desk height is not adjustable.

What workers can do

  • Know how to adjust your desk to suit your physical requirements.
    The ideal position is to have your arms hanging relaxed from your shoulders. If using a keyboard, bend your arms at right angles at the elbow and keep your hands in a straight line with your forearms and your elbows close to the body. Your head should be in line with your body and slightly forward.
  • Re-adjust your desk height to suit the footwear you are wearing, such as high heels.
  • Take breaks from work activity and move away from the desk.

What employers can do

  • Provide adjustable furniture and consider sit-stand workstations. When selecting desks and other workstation equipment and furniture, consider:
    • the tasks to be performed
    • type of equipment and materials to be used
    • adjustability
    • number of different users.
  • Arrange for an ergonomic assessment for new workers and workers who are experiencing issues.
  • Provide training on the correct way to set up your desk.
  • Install computer applications that encourages employees to take regular breaks and carry out stretching exercises.

Monitors

Cause

  • Screen position - too high, too low, at an incorrect angle.
  • User sitting too close or too far from the monitor.
  • Uncorrected vision problems.

What workers can do

  • Know how to set up your screen correctly for your vision requirements.

    Single screen - Angle the monitor away from lights and windows to avoid glare, locate the monitor directly in front of you at arm’s length away, position the top of the monitor just above eye level to avoid head tilt, and tilt the monitor 15 degrees up from vertical.

    Dual screen - Users require a slightly different set up to prevent excessive twisting or turning of the head when viewing both screens. Position the monitor you use the most in front of you. Locate monitors side by side and slightly angle the screens towards each other to prevent twisting. Learn how to arrange your work on the screen, such as two documents side by side on the one screen.
  • Have regular eye examinations to check that blurring, headaches and other associated problems are not caused by an underlying disorder.
  • If you wear multifocal glasses, pay particular attention to where your head is positioned in order to see the screen through the correct lens rather than tilting your head to look over the glasses.
  • Frequently look away from the screen and focus on faraway objects.
  • Use the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes stop work and focus your eyes on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Blink frequently. 
    Eyes can dry out as a result of blinking less when staring at computer screens. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day to maintain adequate hydration. Office workers who wear contact lenses experience more severe symptoms of dry eye because contact lenses can cause friction if the eye is not well lubricated. If the surface of the eye is dry, the contact lens also becomes dry and sticks to the upper eyelid during blinking.

What employers can do

  • Supply monitors that are fully adjustable and train workers how to setup and adjust monitors.
  • As well as the ergonomic set up, the display configuration should also be addressed such as screen resolution, font size and glare.
  • Encourage workers to take breaks from the computer - get a drink of water, walk to the kitchen, talk to a colleague instead of mailing them.
  • Review work deadlines so they are achievable without excessive screen use.

Keyboard and mouse

Cause

  • Prolonged use without adequate breaks.
  • Location of keyboard and mouse.

What workers can do

  • Use your keyboard and mouse correctly.
    The keyboard should be directly in front of you and at a height that enables your upper limbs to adopt a neutral position. Keep the keyboard close to you so you aren’t reaching. You may need a split keyboard to enable your limbs to remain in the correct position. The mouse also requires a neutral position for use and allows your wrist to remain flat during use.
    Learn to use your mouse with the other hand to allow you to swap sides from time to time and rest the other hand.
    Be careful not to reach for your mouse, it should be beside the keyboard. Because there are many designs of mouse it is important to have one that suits the user’s hand.
  • Use keyboard shortcuts instead of mouse clicks.

What employers can do

  • Provide workers with the appropriate keyboard, mouse and instruction to carry out their work safely.
  • Consider installing software that tracks keyboard and mouse use to prompt users to take a break.
Page last reviewed: 03 May 2021

Comcare (Office Safety tool)
GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 26 Jun 2022

https://www.comcare.gov.au/office-safety-tool/spaces/work-areas/computers-workstations