What Is the Correct Ergonomic Posture?

The correct ergonomic posture is a personal thing, as much as a theory of safe work practices. Your ergonomics are based on your height, size and your needs in the workplace.

The idea of ergonomics is to prevent strain and injuries caused by your work. Everybody is different, and your work station has to be tailored to provide maximum support and comfort.

The Posture Issues

The correct posture is a basic principle of ergonomics. The best posture is defined as:

Balanced: Good balance reduces and prevents uneven pressures on the body, which can cause excess strain on the spine, neck, muscle groups and tendons. The concept of balance is a primary factor in long standing traditional exercise regimes like yoga and Qigong (Tai Chi). It's long been considered that simply standing with a good balance is a useful exercise.

At a workstation, it's more than exercise. It's injury prevention, in the most literal sense of the word. Rapid keystrokes, combined with unhealthy pressures on sensitive areas like the wrists, spine, elbows and around the neck, can do serious damage. They compress nerves, and can restrict the movements while you're making them as you try to keep your balance. These can be very minor movements, so automatic you barely even notice you're making them.

Your balance should be:

  • Easy to maintain
  • Comfortable, not stretching or confining
  • Should not require any regular or repetitive shifts of balance

You should feel:

  • No muscular or joint pains when you stop working
  • No odd nervous twinges or numbness
  • No headaches
  • No dizziness

You should be feeling pretty good, in fact, because a good balance rests well, allowing smooth, unforced movements by the muscle groups.

Comfortable, with easy reach: With the good balance comes an obvious need to remain balanced with your reach. This is particularly important, because your needs are dictated by your work role.

Some jobs require perpetual movement of hands or arms. Others involve very high volumes of repetitive tasks. These are the classic cases of jobs where people are at serious risk of injuries from ergonomic problems.

Manual jobs, like stores or construction, are also chronic causes of ergonomic injuries through repetition. If you're doing this sort of work, correct balance, proper weight management techniques and good OHS training are critically important. The tips below will help, but because you're handling significant weights, you should be aware that those weights pose an additional risk to your health.

Back, spine and neck ergonomics are the critical issues with reach in most jobs.

Your reach should be:

  • Easy, not requiring stretching. You shouldn't need to fully extend your arms for regular operations
  • No need to maneuver weights
  • No need to make twisting movements of the body or spine
  • The neck and shoulders should be able to relax effectively

You should feel:

  • None of the symptoms referred to in the "balance" section
  • No unusual pains in the hands or arms
  • No spine or back pains

Important: Ergonomic injuries aren't easy to spot. You should consider any pain which is recurrent, and seems worse after work, as a possible ergonomic situation. See a doctor if you're concerned about the nature of any persistent symptoms.