Ergonomic Equipment

Assessment of workstations and other hazardous manual tasks may result in the need to purchase specific ergonomic equipment. There is a wide variety of ergonomically designed equipment available, including chairs, adjustable-height or sit-stand desks, monitor raisers or arms, alternative mouse devices, keyboards, document holders, reading slopes, footrests, headsets, keyboard sleeves, anti-fatigue mats, etc.

Refer to the UNSW Preferred Suppliers website for suppliers of ergonomic equipment

Managers should discuss firstly with their WHS Business Partner/Coordinator if planning to purchase non-standard ergonomic equipment (e.g. specialised mouse devices). 

Chairs

Chairs used for sitting at workstations should be selected to ensure that the user is appropriately supported. Chairs should be fully adjustable to accommodate different size workers. Chairs selected should meet the following requirements:

  • AFRDI 6 certified
  • Easy-to-use control mechanisms
  • 5-point base – to prevent tipping or slipping
  • Castors for carpet; glides or braked castors for hard surfaces
  • Fully adjustable to accommodate different size workers (with seat height, backrest height and backrest tilt adjustments)
  • Padded seat
  • Seat slide mechanism is preferable as it allows different users to adjust accordingly
  • Conform to the lower back curve of the user
  • No arms, or if necessary, arms must be adjustable in height and direction so that they do not prevent you from getting as close to the desk as possible, or swivelling at the desk.

Should an individual require an alternative chair, they should firstly discuss with their Supervisor/Manager and if required consult with their WHS Business Partner/Coordinator. In some situations, advice may be required from a treating practitioner.

Fitness Balls (Swiss, Exercise or Physio ball)

The fitness ball is NOT recommended for use as workstation seating but may be used to provide postural breaks and to complete stretches and exercises from during breaks. 

Hazards associated with the fitness ball include load on musculoskeletal structures due to:

  • Lack of lower back support, resulting in loss of the initial upright posture over time
  • Inability to maintain upright postures during reaching and moving
  • Inadequate seat support for the buttocks and thighs
  • Inability to adjust the ball to the correct height relative to the desk
  • Inability to swivel or navigate around the workstation, resulting in twisting of the trunk whilst sitting on the ball
  • Fall hazards associated with getting on and off or reaching from the ball
  • High concentration levels and fatigue from sustained exercising.

Desks

Workstations should be designed so that workers can carry out their work in a comfortable, upright position with shoulders relaxed and upper arms close to the body.

Desks should be between a height of 710mm - 770mm for a fixed height desk (the preferred worktop height is within the range of 720mm – 740mm) – as per the Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 4442:2018.

While working at your desk, there should be enough room to complete computing and writing tasks in separate areas. AS/NZS 4442:2018 advises desks should be at least 1600mm width x 600mm depth for mixed task work. There should also be enough room under your desk to move your legs freely.

Adjustable sit/stand workstations

 

Sedentary lifestyles have been associated with adverse health outcomes including obesity, systemic disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and some cancers. Sedentary work includes work involving prolonged sitting and standing. As a result, UNSW advocates a dynamic working environment and encourages staff to:

  • Walk more at work:
    • Avoid sending emails if the recipient is near - walk over and talk to them instead
    • Have walking meetings
    • Use stairs instead of elevators
    • Take a long route to the bathroom or photocopier
    • Park your car further away from your building
  • Set a timer to remind you to stand up and stretch every 30 minutes and use this time to do other work activities. See Rest Breaks for further information.
  • Stand up when using the telephone.

Sitting OR standing for prolonged periods should be avoided. Prolonged sitting in combination with poor working postures can contribute to an increased risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders. Prolonged standing may lead to sore and/or swollen feet and lower limbs, poor circulation, and leg fatigue. Ensure periods of sitting or standing are broken up by periodic movement throughout the day, preferably 1-2 minutes every 20 to 30 minutes. Taking frequent micro-breaks can also improve your level of comfort, work performance, and reduces the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

Workstations that are fully adjustable in height enable users to easily alternate between sitting and standing. The user should ensure that they build up their standing tolerance and change position frequently to prevent periods of prolonged sitting or standing.

Electric height adjustable sit/stand desks will accommodate the widest range of users. They should have a minimum of 100kg safe working load (which includes the weight of the desktop surface) and ideally, be motor-operated with plug into the wall (not a battery pack which can be more prone to failure) or employ a hydraulic mechanism to enable ease of adjustment.

Sit-stand desk accessories are designed to be used with an existing desk. They may sit directly on or attach to an existing desk and provide a cost-efficient mechanism for alternating between sitting and standing. They are useful with workstations that are pre-configured with adjoining partitions but only permit a small section of the workstation to be used in standing. They can also introduce new ergonomic hazards as they increase the height of a standard desk when used in a sitting position. This may mean that the individual is unable to raise their chair to the appropriate height which can introduce additional body stressing risks. In addition, a footrest may be required to support feet and maintain an appropriate hip position.

Manual free-standing height adjustable sit/stand desks are NOT recommended as they involve repetitive winding or manual lifting.

Setting up your sit-to-stand workstation

Users should aim for the same monitor and keyboard set-up when alternating between sitting and standing. When setting up your sit-stand workstation ensure that you:

  1. Determine the standing desk height by relaxing your shoulders and bending your elbows to 90 degrees when hands are on the keyboard. The desk height should be at or slightly below elbow height enabling your forearms to slightly slope down to the keyboard with a maximum 90-95 degree angle
  2. Adjust the monitor height so that the top of the monitor is at or just below eye level
  3. Adjust the position of the monitor so it is approximately an arm’s length away – with the upper arms close to the body; wrists straight and hands at or below elbow level
  4. Position the keyboard and mouse at the same level and close to the body – stand close to the workstation to avoid leaning forward.