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Ergonomics: Work Smarter Not Harder

from Bri Friedt, Program Intern Spring 2013

Did you know that right at this very moment ergonomics is affecting you? According to ergonomics.org; The term “ergonomics” is derived from two Greek words: “ergon,” meaning work, and “nomoi,” meaning natural laws. Ergonomists study human capabilities in relationship to work demands. Ergonomics allows us to work smarter, not harder. Whether you are working at a desk, walking around, standing, hauling and moving heavy items, or crouching down in hard to reach places, ergonomics can help protect your body and reduce some of the aches and pains of everyday life.

Use these ergonomics guidelines from the Unites States Department of Labor to ensure you’re practicing proper technique when doing everyday activities such as sitting, standing or lifting for long periods of time.

Sitting at a desk

  1. Hands, wrists, and forearms are straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor.
  2. Head is level, or bent slightly forward, forward facing, and balanced. Generally it is in-line with the torso.
  3. Shoulders are relaxed and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.
  4. Elbows stay in close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
  5. Feet are fully supported by the floor or a footrest may be used if the desk height is not adjustable.
  6. Back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support when sitting vertical or leaning back slightly.
  7. Thighs and hips are supported by a well-padded seat and generally parallel to the floor.
  8. Knees are about the same height as the hips with the feet slightly forward.

Regardless of how good your working posture is, working in the same posture or sitting still for prolonged periods is not healthy. You should change your working position frequently throughout the day in the following ways:

  • Make small adjustments to your chair or backrest.
  • Stretch your fingers, hands, arms, and torso.
  • Stand up and walk around for a few minutes periodically.


  1. Head up straight with chin tucked. Do not tilt head.
  2. Stretch the top of your head toward the ceiling.
  3. Earlobes in line with the middle of shoulders.
  4. Keep shoulder blades back.
  5. Keep knees straight but not locked back.
  6. Tuck stomach in. Do not tilt pelvis forward or backward.
  7. The arches in your feet should be supported by proper shoes.
  8. Avoid standing in the same position for a long time. If possible, adjust the height of your work table to a comfortable level.


If you must lift objects, do not try to lift objects that are awkward or are heavier than 30 pounds.

  1. Before you lift a heavy object, make sure you have firm footing.
  2. To pick up an object that is lower than the level of your waist, keep your back straight and bend at your knees and hips. Do not bend forward at the waist with your knees straight.
  3. Stand with a wide stance close to the object you are trying to pick up and keep your feet firm on the ground. Tighten your stomach muscles and lift the object using your leg muscles. Straighten your knees in a steady motion. Don’t jerk the object up to your body.
  4. Stand completely upright without twisting. Always move your feet forward when lifting an object.
  5. If you are lifting an object from a table, slide it to the edge to the table so that you can hold it close to your body. Bend your knees so that you are close to the object. Use your legs to lift the object and come to a standing position.
  6. Avoid lifting heavy objects above waist level.
  7. Hold packages close to your body with your arms bent. Keep your stomach muscles tight. Take small steps and go slowly.
  8. To lower the object, place your feet as you did to lift, tighten stomach muscles and bend your hips and knees.


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