Office Ergonomics: Designing for Worker Productivity and Health

Drawing of office ergonomics in progress with CSA Z412-2000 (R2016) guidance.

Although sitting a desk for hours at a time may seem detrimental to health and productivity, it doesn’t have to be. The purpose of office ergonomics is to design the office work space to be conducive to its users by addressing the capabilities and limitations of the worker. CSA Z412-2017: Office ergonomics – An application standard for workplace ergonomics provides guidelines on optimizing work environments.

Effective ergonomics can increase employee productivity and satisfaction, which may contribute to a better work environment. By eliminating risk factors that lead to health problems such as musculoskeletal disorders, proper ergonomics may also reduce instances of absenteeism stemming from work-related illness or injury.  Ergonomists and occupational safety and health professionals believe that reducing physical stress in the workplace can eliminate up to half of serious injuries every year.

The CSA Z412-2017 standard is intended primarily for office workers and employers who are responsible for workplace health and safety programs, but it has implications in a range of areas as many office workers have little control over the original design or subsequent modification of their office spaces. Health and safety regulatory agencies will be interested in this guideline for the purposes of education and consultation and as a reference for the development of regulations and codes of practice. Manufacturers and designers will also obtain general information from this standard, so their products can meet the minimum standards specified in this document.

Included in the standard is a step-by-step design process for optimal office ergonomics. The nine step process outlines procedures for problem identification, appraisal of job demands, design recommendations, design review, and relevant definitions. Information in this guideline comes in two forms: ergonomic principles expressed in the form of performance goals (for example, “the chair should fit the user”) and suggested specifications (for example, chair dimensions). Further reference may be found in the adopted ISO 9241 Standards or other publications.

The introduction and normalization of laptop computers, email, and home-based offices, to name a few, have reshaped the conventional work environment. CSA Z412-2017 is a revision of the first edition, published in 1989, to account for recent developments in technology and work practices that have occurred.

See more about office ergonomics standards on the ANSI Webstore.

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