Helpful Ergonomic Tips

Between 2000 and 2005, twelve accident/incident reports were filed to Western’s Occupational Health and Safety Department. While this may not seem like a lot, few TAs know that they must report their injuries, meaning that the actual number of injuries could be much higher. A majority of these injuries occurred to the hand from being caught or struck by various objects. Further, 10 out of these twelve injuries required more than just first aid treatment including visiting a health professional and/or requiring the TA to actually file a lost time report when they were no longer able to complete their duties. A large part of a TA’s responsibilities are completed in an office setting where they work with computers or mark exams. Office work has been linked to a variety of occupational injuries including low back, shoulder and neck pain, as well as, disorders of the wrist and hands. In order to help you reduce the chances of developing any of these symptoms, especially during heavy work periods such as exam time, we have compiled a list of useful information concerning how one might go about setting up their work environment.

Adjusting your computer work station

Monitor height:

  • When seated your monitor should be placed with the top of the screen at eye



  • Your chair should be height adjustable, have a 5 castor support for stability and lumbar support for the lower back.
  • To properly adjust your chair you should:
    • Raise the chair until the lower edge of the seat is just below your knee cap when standing.
    • Be able to sit with your feet resting flat on the floor and your legs at a 90-100 degree angle.
    • Allow enough space for a closed fist between the seat and the back of your legs.
    • Adjust the back rest so that it supports your low back region by moving it up/down or forward/backward until the lumbar (lower back) support is situated against the lumbar region of your back.

Mouse position :

  • Place the mouse in front of your mousing hand at the same height as your keyboard so that you do not have to reach. Your wrist should be in a straight line between your hand and elbow and if possible your forearm should be supported.
  • Use your whole arm to move the mouse not just your wrist and hand.

Stretching exercises

General Stretching Rules: Ideally you should hold a stretch for 60 – 90 seconds slowly increasing the stretch. However, 10-15 seconds has become common practice. Repetition: Repeat each stretch 3 to 5 times.

The following exercises and pictures are courtesy of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). For more information, on ergonomic exercises, visit:

Wrist and hand exercises:

  • Start with your hand open then make a fist. Keep your thumb straight, not tucked under your fingers. Slide your fingertips up your palm so the tips of your fingers are near the base of your fingers and you should feel a stretch. Do not force your fingers with your other hand if something is painful.
  • Start by stretching your arm and hand out and slowly rotate the wrist down until you feel a stretch.
  • Grasp your hand and hold your fingers with the other hand. Slowly bend your wrist down until you feel a stretch. Then slowly bend your wrist up until you feel the stretch. Hold and relax as above.

Wrist 1Wrist 2Wrist 3Wrist 4Wrist 5

Shoulder exercises:

  • Raise the top of your shoulders towards your ears until you feel slight tension in your neck and shoulders. Hold this position. Then relax your shoulders downward into their normal position.
  • Hold your right arm with your left hand just above the elbow. Gently push your elbow toward your left shoulder. Hold stretch and repeat with your left arm.
  • Slowly roll your shoulders backward five times in a circular motion. Next, roll your shoulders forwards.

Shoulder 1Shoulder 2Shoulder 3

Neck exercise:

  • Drop your head slowly to the left, trying to touch your left ear to your left shoulder. Repeat on the right side. Slowly drop your chin to your chest, turn your head all the way to the left, and then turn all the way to the right.
  • Sit or stand upright. Without lifting your chin, glide your head straight back. You know you are doing this exercise right if it gives you feel a double chin.

Neck 1Neck 2

Back exercises:

  • Grasp your shin. Lift the leg off the floor. Bend forward (curling your back), and reach your nose to your knee. Repeat with the other leg.
  • Interlace your fingers and lift your arms over your head, keeping the elbows straight. Press arms as far back as you can. To stretch your sides, slowly lean to the left and then to the right.

Back 1Back 2

Ergonomic resources on the internet: