Computer Workstation Self-Audit Checklist

Excerpt from University of California San Francisco and Berkeley web sites
by Pete W. Johnson, 1994

This is not an interactive checklist. However, if you check "NO" to any of the questions, be sure to read the discussions at the end of each section.

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Chair Adjustment

YES     NO            Is your chair height adjustable?

YES     NO            Is your chair back adjustable up and down?

YES     NO            Is your chair back contoured to support the lower back?

YES     NO            Is there room between the front edge of the seat and your knees?

YES     NO            Do your chair arms interfere with you getting close to your work?

YES     NO            Do your chair arms allow you to sit with your shoulders relaxed?

YES     NO            Do your feet rest flat on the floor or are they supported by a foot rest?

YES     NO            Are your knees bent forming approx. 90 degree or greater angle?

To be seated properly in your chair your feet must rest flat on the floor.  You should use a foot rest if your chair does not adjust low enough or if your work surface is too high.  The key is to not only have your feet flat on the floor (or supported by a foot rest) but also to have your thighs parallel with the seat pan so your legs form approximately a 90 degree (or greater) angle at the knee.

If your chair has an adjustable back up and down with an outward contouring in the lower back of the chair (the lumbar support), adjust the back of your chair so the lumbar support fits in the small of your back.  If the chair back is adjustable forward and backward, adjust the angle to what is comfortable for you.  The angle you prefer is rather subjective; you should adjust the back angle of your chair so your trunk and upper legs form an angle somewhere between 94-115 degrees.

If your chair has arms they should not interfere with you getting close to your work.  In addition, when you assume the typing position with your arms resting comfortably at your side, the chair arms should be at a height where they just barely contact your elbows.  The chair arms should not noticeably elevate your shoulders or force you to wing your arms out to use them.



Work Surface/Keyboard/Pointing Device Adjustment

YES     NO    With your chair adjusted properly in your work surface at approximately elbow level?

YES     NO    Are your shoulders relaxed and not elevated when you work at your work surface?

YES     NO    When you address your work surface to type or write is there approximately a 90 degree angle between your forearms and upper arms and your elbows close to your body?

YES     NO     When you address your work surface to type are your wrists in line with your forearms and not bent upwards, downwards, or side-to-side?

For the proper work surface/keyboard height do the following:  if your work surface is adjustable, first adjust your chair as mentioned in the chair adjustment section above, then with your arms resting comfortably at your side, raise your forearms to form a 90 degree angle with your upper arms.  Adjust you work surface to so the home row of your keyboard is at approximately elbow level.  If your work surface is too high and not adjustable, adjust your chair to bring your elbows to the home row level of the keyboard.  If you raise your chair make sure your feet are properly supported.



Monitor Adjustment

YES     NO            Is the viewing distance to your computer monitor somewhere between 18-30 inches?

YES     NO            Is the top of your computer screen at or just below eye level?

YES     NO            Is your computer monitor free of glare or reflections?

Once you have your chair to work surface height adjusted, adjust your computer monitor so the top of the screen is at or just below eye level.



Workstation Accessory Arrangements

YES     NO           Is your input device (mouse, trackball, digitizing tablet) at the same level as your keyboard?

YES     NO            Do you have enough room on your work surface for all your computer accessories?

YES     NO            Are your most frequently accessed items (phone, manuals, etc.) easy to reach?

YES     NO            Do you have an adjustable document holder to hold paper for prolonged inputting?

YES     NO            Do you have a wrist rest to support your wrists in a straight and neutral position?

YES     NO            Do your arms rest on, or contact any sharp or square edges on your work surfaces?

YES     NO            If a large percentage of your time involves using a phone do you use a phone headset?

If you use an input device (mouse, trackball, digitizing tablet, etc.) make sure it is at the same level and at approximately the same distance as your keyboard.  Try to keep your pointing device as close to the centerline of your body as possible.  Reaching for your input device or having it at a higher level than your keyboard can cause problems.  Keyboard drawers or other type of keyboard support devices can increase the amount of desk space but can cause other problems.  One problem with keyboard drawers and other types of keyboard supports is that they force you further away from your primary work surface, put your mouse at a higher level, and force you to reach to user your mouse and other accessories.  Another problem with these type of devices is that they often interfere with the thigh clearance under your work surface.

Keep your most frequently accessed items close to you to minimize the amount of reaching you have to do.  If you type and reference material from paper you should consider using a document holder or slant board.  Place the document holder at the same distance and height as your computer monitor.  The document holder will help in keeping your head over your spine and can prevent or relieve neck, shoulder, and back discomfort.

A padded wrist rest made out of firm foam will take some of the load off your neck, shoulder, and back muscles; keep your wrist in a straight and neutral position while typing; and keep your arms off the sharp edges of the work surface.  Ideally the wrist rest should be made of a firm foam and constructed so the pad height matches the front (toe) height of your keyboard.  

Talking on the phone with your neck bent to hole the receiver can cause neck, shoulder, and back discomfort.  If you are on the phone a fair amount of time, a phone headset can prevent you from bending your neck and prevent or relieve the discomfort.



 Work Habits

YES     NO            Do you take short and frequent breaks ever 20-40 minutes?

YES     NO            Do you frequently change body positions while working?

YES     NO            Do you provide your eyes with vision breaks every half hour?

YES     NO            Is overtime work uncommon?

YES     NO            Are you free from deadline situations or experiencing deadline stress?

YES     NO            Are you free from experiencing any pain or discomfort while working?

 It is very important to take a break from working at your computer every 20-40 minutes.  Repetitious static work (working at a computer) is very fatiguing on your upper extremities as well as your eyes.  Your body needs periodic breaks to rest and recover.  Taking a bread does not mean you have to stop working, you could make a trip to the copier, talk to a colleague, make some phone calls, etc.

It is also very important to change positions periodically.  Sitting in one position or leaning on your arms for an extended period of time can interfere with circulation.  Moving around can help with circulation and prevent you from putting pressure on one location for an extended period of time.

It is often working overtime and the stress of deadline situations that force people to ignore and work through their pain and discomfort.  It is very important that once you start to notice some pain or discomfort to be very careful.  Pain that goes away over night is usually a sign of fatigue, pain that is continuous and does not go away over night if more serious and should be attended immediately.  Once you detect any pain or discomfort while working see your doctor.  It is much easier for them to treat you and for you to recover from a pain episode the earlier you are treated.  Ignoring pain can lead to serious injury.

Finally, be careful with what you do outside of work.  Repetitive stressful activities outside of work (home improvement projects, hobbies that require repetitive motion, etc.) can sometimes lead to repetitive motion injuries as well.  When working on a new task you should treat it just like preparing for a race.  Whenever you engage in a new task gradually build up your strength and endurance, donít just jump right in.

NOTE:  The questions you answered NO to are areas you may want to change or seek improvements on.



Vary Your Workday

Now that you have seen to the proper positioning of your equipment, make sure you do not stay stuck in one position.  Our bodies were designed to move; they were not designed to be in the same posture all day.

Vary your tasks throughout your day.

  • Build in short tasks that force you to stand up and walk away from the computer.  Examples are: retrieving printouts, do filing, or get other work.  These tasks should involve walking, standing, and stretching.  Take these brief breaks every 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Frequent short breaks may be of greater value than fewer, longer breaks.
  • During these breaks, stretch muscles and joints that were in one position for an extended period of time.  Relax muscles and joints that were active.
  • Use a timer or reminder software to remind you to take breaks.
  • Alter your sitting posture periodically and keep your hands and wrists warm.
  • Some people like to stand when they use the computer or change from sitting to standing during the day.


For more Ergonomics information,

More information can also be found in EHS/RMS Policy 24, Ergonomics and Policy 25, Office Safety.