Ergonomic Policy

Applicable to all Walla Walla University employees, including faculty, staff and students who encounter ergonomic risk factors during the course of their daily work activities.


  • Provide a safe working environment for all faculty, staff and students.
  • Optimize employee health and safety by preventing musculoskeletal disorders caused by exposure to risk factors.
  • Ensure early intervention once a musculoskeletal injury has been reported.
  • Enhance employee morale, productivity and comfort in the workplace.

This policy does not include injuries caused by slips, trips, falls, vehicle accidents or other similar accidents.

This policy covers musculoskeletal disorders of the back, upper and lower extremities and includes back injuries, cumulative trauma disorders, repetitive strain disorders, etc. It applies to all Walla Walla University jobs that require more than four (4) hours per day of the following:

  • Repetitive hand, arm or shoulder motions,
  • Fixed or awkward position (working with wrists bent, kneeling, twisted or bent back, overhead work, stooping),
  • Poor sitting/standing posture,
  • Excessive reaching,
  • Use of vibrating or impact equipment,
  • Manual handling of 25 pounds or more,
  • Use of excessive force,
  • Contact stress (resting wrist/forearm against a sharp edge),
  • Improper workstation or chair adjustments.


Physical stressors and workplace conditions that may pose a risk of injury to the musculoskeletal system of an employee.

The following activities are recognized as important risk factors, especially when performed frequently and/or in combination with each other:


Performing the same constant actions can result in fatigue and strain of muscles and tendons, especially when performed frequently over a prolonged period of time. Overused, tired muscles and tendons cannot recover from the effects of repeated actions if sufficient recovery time is not allotted between exertions. For most repetitive strain injuries, the disease progresses through three injury/disease stages. The effects of performing repetitive actions are increased when combined with awkward postures and forceful exertions.

Examples:

  • Intensive data entry requiring rapid, repeated keying actions
  • Manual material-handling activities

Working in stressful or non-neutral body postures can fatigue or stress affected parts of the body due to the amount of force or stress which occurs.

Examples:

  • Working with bent or flexed wrists
  • Performing tasks with outstretched arms
  • Prolonged holding of a single posture or position
  • Lifting, lowering, or handling objects when the back is bent or twisted
  • Sudden, jerking movements made during the work process
  • Frequent or prolonged extended reaching for materials, especially above the shoulders
  • Frequent stooping or squatting

Placing excessive loads on the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints increases demands on the body necessary to sustain an increased effort, such as greater muscle exertion and physiological changes. This includes lifting, pushing, and pulling motions.

Examples:

  • Using small or narrow tool handles that lessen grip capacity
  • Using the index finger and thumb in a pinch grip to forcefully grip objects
  • Twisting, bending or stooping at the waist to lift and lower loads
  • Lifting, loading or lowering objects that do not have adequate hand-holds

Placing the forearms, wrists or fingers in repeated or continual contact with hard or sharp objects/surfaces or with unpadded, narrow tool handles can interfere with proper nerve function and blood flow.

Examples:

  • Pressing forearms or wrists against sharp/hard desk edges when keying or writing
  • Using tools that press into the base of the palm
  • Using the palm of the hand as a hammer

Localized vibration exposure is produced by contact between the hands and a vibrating object, such as a power tool. Whole-body vibration exposure occurs while standing or sitting in vibrating environments such as in trucks or heavy machinery, or while using heavy equipment such as jackhammers.


For most repetitive strain injuries, the disease progresses through three stages:

Mild pain or tiredness that clears up after rest and generally does not affect the worker's lifestyle away from work, to any great extent. This stage can last for weeks or months, but is generally reversible if the cause is identified and removed.

More severe pain, aching, tingling, numbness or tiredness that develops early in the working day, persists longer at night, and affects activities even at home.

Symptoms become continuous, even during complete rest. Often, the worker can no longer carry out ordinary light tasks at work or at home. At this stage, recovery may take years if it occurs at all.


An individual workstation should provide the operator with a comfortable sitting position sufficiently flexible to reach, use and observe the screen, keyboard and any paper document referred to while keying. Some general guidelines to minimize fatigue include:


The seat and backrest of the chair should support a comfortable posture permitting occasional variations in the sitting position. Chair height and backrest angle should be easily adjustable. A footrest may be necessary.

When using the keyboard, the upper arm and forearm should form a right angle. The hands should be in a reasonably straight line with the forearm, using a wrist rest. Long or unnaturally high reaches should be avoided. Armrests should also be avoided while keying.

The chair height is correct when the entire sole of the foot can rest on the floor or on a footrest and the knee is level with or slightly higher than the hip. This allows blood to circulate freely in the legs and feet.

Monitors that adjust vertically enable the operator to select the optimum viewing position.  Eyes should be level or slightly below the top of the screen. The monitor should be centered and approximately one arm's length away (or closer for better vision). 

The table or workstation should suit the task to be done. It should be large enough for reference materials, files, telephone, calculator or other necessary items and also permit different positions of the screen and keyboard. An adjustable surface height is an advantage.

  • Top of monitor screen should be at eye level and 20-30" away.
  • Arms should hang comfortably from shoulders, close to body with forearms in a 90-degree alignment (neutral posture).
  • Wrists should be flat. Place keyboard here.
  • Adjust chair so that hips and legs achieve a 90-degree angle with feet flat on floor. Sit all the way back and straight.
  • Use a copyholder for documents.
  • Take small breaks every hour.

Invariably, individuals twist or strain to reach the keyboard or sit in odd contortions, which result in neck, back, or wrist pain. Some simple workstation modifications, posture awareness, and chair consciousness can prevent problems.

  • Lower the height of the chair so that your back touches the back of the chair and you are comfortable.
  • Your feet should rest firmly on the floor slightly in front of you.
  • Center your keyboard in front of your monitor. Your eyes should be at the same level as the tool bar.
  • Keep the keyboard and mouse close to the edge of the desk.
  • Keyboard and mouse should be positioned so your arms fall naturally at your sides, with wrists straight out in front while typing/mousing.
  • Support your wrist and forearms with a gel pad or wrist support,
  • Avoid repetitive gripping of the mouse,
  • Keep frequently used items close - avoid reaching for anything,
  • Perform wrist, finger, and hand exercises.

If you feel as though there is a problem with your work environment, take a moment to fill out the Workstation Ergonomics Self-Evaluation Checklist.

If you are concerned there may be a problem with your workstation or are already experiencing ergonomic-related discomfort, you may request an assessment of your work area. To request an assessment:

  1. Review the Workstation Adjustment list
  2. Complete the Workstation Ergonomics Self-Evaluation Checklist
  3. Complete all ergonomic safety training courses that you've been assigned

This assessment is for those who have not previously had an ergonomics assessment done at Walla Walla University.

Once you complete the Workstation Ergonomics Self-Evaluation Checklist, Human Resources will schedule an assessment of your work area. Once completed, a report will be written listing any problem areas and the recommendations for improvement. A copy of this report will be made available to your supervisor. Human Resources will assist with any modifications that need to be made to your workstation.

 

This assessment is for those who have had a previous assessment done. You may want a re-check because your workstation has changed, your duties have changed, or you've started experiencing ergonomic-related discomfort that you weren't previously.

Please complete a new Workstation Ergonomics Self-Evaluation Checklist. Human Resources will schedule an new assessment of your work area and make an updated report of any problem areas and the recommendations for improvement. A copy of the report will be made available to your supervisor. Human Resources will assist with any modifications that need to be made to your workstation.

If you feel as though there is a problem with your work environment, take a moment to fill out the Workstation Ergonomics Self-Evaluation Checklist.

  • Immediately inform Human Resources, of any ergonomic-related discomfort. Early reporting is important to prevent injuries from occurring or becoming worse.
  • Perform a Workstation Ergonomics Self-Evaluation of your workstation and to report deficiencies and to schedule an assessment. The Workstation Ergonomics Self-Evaluation Checklist and a list of simple workstation adjustments have been provided to help assess your needs.
  • Be responsible for correct use of the equipment provided by your employer.
  • Participate in required ergonomic safety training.
  • Perform simple stretches or exercises throughout the day, according to ability, to reduce stress.
  • Comply with ergonomic policy and follow recommended work practices to prevent repetitive strain injuries and discomfort. Non-compliance is subject to disciplinary action. Walla Walla University is responsible for the safety of its employees. Because of this, employees are required to comply with recommendations for changes to work sites.
  1. Ensure appropriate work methods. When considering an employee's regular job assignment, both pace of work and job flow should be reviewed to avoid excessively-repetitive work for any one employee and his/her specific position.
  2. Encourage employees to promptly report signs and symptoms of ergonomic-related discomfort to Human Resources by completing the Workstation Ergonomics Self-Evaluation Checklist, and follow up for compliance.
  3. Accommodate employee work restrictions established by their health care provider.
  4. Oversee implementation of work site corrections and improvements recommended by Human Resources. Upon completion of Human Resource's workstation assessment, you will receive a copy of the recommendations for changes to your employee's workstation.
  5. Non-compliance is subject to disciplinary action. Walla Walla University is responsible for the safety of its employees. Because of this, employees are required to comply with recommendations for changes to work sites. In the event of non-compliance, Human Resources will communicate with supervisor or department head.

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