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Cornell University Ergonomics Web


Ergonomic Intervention & Follow-up Study
of the
City of Ithaca
Department of Planning and Development

Introduction Workstations Results Discussion



The results reported above provide evidence that the intervention decreased reports of musculoskeletal discomfort in the employees who participated in this study. Also, the risk of injury for the employees was also reduced. This is illustrated by the significant decrease in the RULA scores of the employees.

There are several reasons for the improved comfort rating and RULA scores. The following is a brief outline of several of the problems treated through the intervention. For more details, please see the first part of this study, and the full explanations for various components of the workstations, and their possible effects on employees.

The installation of the articulating keyboard/mouse tray provided employees with more adjustability in their workstations. This allowed each worker to arrange their keyboard and mouse in a position that drastically reduced wrist deviation, and wrist flexion.

The adjustments made to monitor also contributed to the decrease in employee discomfort. Many employees were working with the monitor at an incorrect height and tilt angle. This can lead to eyestrain, neck discomfort, and headaches. Positioning the monitor so that the screen is not tilted, and the top of the screen is a 1-3 inches above the users line of sight helped to reduce these symptoms in the employees.

Employees working at inappropriate desk heights will also experience symptoms of discomfort. Desk height affects the height of the working surface, the monitor height, and the chair height at which a person sits. In the case of this study, incorrect desk height was causing employees to sit at inappropriate height. This resulted in a lack of support for the legs, and lower and upper back. As part of the intervention, desk and chair heights were adjusted and symptoms of discomfort were reduced in these areas. Also, several subjects received new chairs, or chairs different from their original chairs. These chairs were chosen based on their ability to support the parts of the body mentioned above, as well as the individual comfort of the employee.

There was no significant improvement in the comfort ratings of phone use in this study. Many employees had headsets, and the discomfort experienced related to phone use was mostly caused by the improper position of the phone itself. This problem was a result of limited desktop and storage space, which forced employees to place the phone outside of their reach envelope. This reaching to pickup the headsets, dial, and replace the headsets can be remedied by placing the phone closer to the employee. This is especially true of those employees who use the phone frequently.

The positive effect of the intervention can further be illustrated by examining an employee that did not implement the recommended changes. Although this subject was provided with a keyboard/mouse tray, they did not use the device. The reduction of discomfort and RULA score found in the majority of the employees was not found for this case.

The quantitative data collected in this study was not the only evidence of improved comfort of the employees. Throughout the evaluation process, very positive comments were recorded about how much of a difference just a few minor changes made in the comfort and satisfaction with their working environment. One employee commented how nice it was to be able to "stop wearing glasses" to see the screen while another noticed an "immediate positive effect" in the elimination of his discomfort.

While still more of the recommendations need to be implemented and still more behavioral changes need to be made, the changes that were employed at the seven individual workstations in the span of one month were a good first step toward a more comfortable, productive, and healthy work environment for the employees of the City of Ithaca.

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