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Cornell University Ergonomics Web

Martha Van Rensselaer CAD Lab

DEA 651 Class Project

An ergonomic evaluation was undertaken of a computer-aided drafting (CAD) lab at Cornell University.

Currently, the lab is used by professors and students of interior design, facility planning and management, and textiles and apparel.
The study was prompted by user complaints of inadequate and uncomfortable workstations.

A literature review revealed that there are common injuries reported by CAD workstation operators including:
  • pain from frequent turning of head between source documents and the computer screen (Attwood,1989)
  • wrist pain from poor working posture and frequent use of input devices such as the computer mouse or digitizing tablet (Attwood, 1989).


  • back pain resulting from insufficient upper body support (Hedge, 1996).

This evaluation focused on aspects of workstation design leading to user dissatisfaction, although measures of satisfaction with the ambient environment were also taken in order to identify environmental factors requiring further investigation. Research measures consisted of observation, interviews, and a questionnaire.

Responses were received from one Design and Environmental Analysis professor and a total of twenty-five students from four courses (two upper level courses in Design and Environmental Analysis, one from Textiles and Apparel, and one from the Hotel school). Questionnaire responses from students in a similar lab in the Hotel school, which was reportedly held in higher regard, were included in the study in order to further isolate factors which may be responsible for reported dissatisfaction.
Based on observation of current workstations and prior research, suggestions are made for ways to improve current workstation design. These recommendations include:
  • reducing the amount of head movement necessary to view source documents by re-orienting the computer screen.
  • providing an inclined surface on which to place source documents (Attwood, 1989; Hamilton, 1996).
  • installation of height-adjustable negative slope keyboard trays and mouse trays allowing assumption of more neutral postures while working (Hedge, 1996).

  • provision of adequate numbers of ergonomically designed chairs offering at least height adjustability, lumbar and shoulder support, adjustable arm rests, back tilt adjustability, swivel, and 5 casters (Hedge, 1997).
In light of dissatisfaction expressed by instructors and students with the ambient environment of the CAD Lab, it is recommended that a more in-depth investigation of environmental factors such as air quality, thermal comfort, and lighting be conducted.



Attwood, D. (1989). Comparison of discomfort experienced at CADD, word-processing and traditional drafting workstations. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 4, 39-50.

Hamilton, N. (1996). Source document position as it affects head position and neck muscle tension. Ergonomics. 39(4). 593-610.

Hedge, A., McCrobie, D., Morimoto, S., Rodriguez, S., and Land, B. (1996). Toward pain-free computing. Ergonomics in Design, January, 4-10.

Hedge, A. (1997). (DEA 651: Anthropometrics, Ergonomics, and Biomechanics, Fall 1997. Course notes.) Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.


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Last updated January 25, 2009