Safe and Comfortable Computer Use


This training is for people like you who need to use a computer safely and comfortably.

Your manager or other appropriate person will go through the training with you and these notes will act as a reminder should you need it in the future.Once you have completed the training you will be asked to complete a self-assessment checklist which can be found at in the Safety Guidance section, SGN018.

Working at your computer can expose you to risks which are often caused by the way it is set up and used and this training will help you to do this correctly.

The University has a legal obligation to provide you with a safe workstation but you also have a responsibility to work safely.

The three problems that can be caused by using a VDU are:

  • Musculoskeletal – this is usually aches and pains in the neck, shoulders, arms or back. Examples people may have heard of are RSI (repetitive strain injury) and carpel tunnel syndrome.
  • Visual fatigue – tired or sore eyes and headaches.
  • Stress – caused by problematic software that doesn’t do what you want it to do, does do what you don’t want it to do, or is just difficult to use!

You are more likely to experience any of these problems as you use your PC more often, for longer periods of time and more intensively. By setting up and using your workstation correctly you will minimise the risk.

Setting up the Chair

  • Adjust the seat height so that your elbows are roughly the same height as the keyboard.
  • Once your chair is at the correct height make sure you can rest your feet flat on the floor.

setting up chair

  • Adjust the height of the backrest so that it supports the curve in your lower back.
  • Adjust the angle of the backrest in relation to the seat to a comfortable position.
  • If your seat pan tilts, adjust it to suit the posture chosen
  • If you have armrests they should be adjusted to a height just below elbow level.

Sitting Comfortably

  • Sit as close to the desk as possible when using your computer.

sitting comfortably

  • Always sit back in the chair and use the backrest to support your back.

sitting comfortably

  • Vary your sitting position periodically and occasionally lean back and relax.

Set up the Screen, Keyboard and Mouse

  • Adjust the screen to a height suitable for the type of typist you are. If you are a touch typist this will be at or just below eye level, if you are a non-touch typist it will normally be slightly lower.
  • Ensure the screen and keyboard are located directly in front of the seated position so you are sitting square on to them.


  • Adjust the viewing distance from your eyes to the screen so it is comfortable to read.
  • Provide a minimum space in front of your keyboard where you can rest your palms whilst not typing.


  • Place your mouse as close to the side of the keyboard as possible.


  • Use a mouse mat.
  • Adjust the brightness and contrast of the screen to suit you.

Using the Keyboard Comfortably

  • Use a soft touch while typing.
  • Keep your wrists straight, don’t bend them upwards, downwards or sideways while typing.


  • Rest your arms while not typing but don’t rest the soft inner part of your wrist where you would take your pulse on the wrist rest or table edge.
  • Vary the fingers you use if you are not a touch typist.

Using the Mouse Comfortably

  • Use a light touch when holding and depressing the mouse button(s).
  • Do not bend your hands up or sideways at the wrists while using the mouse.
  • Do not stretch to use the mouse - use the mouse as close to you as possible.
  • Vary the finger with which you depress the mouse button.
  • Vary the way you grasp the mouse.
  • Ensure there is enough space to use the mouse comfortably.

 Viewing the Screen Comfortably

  • Ideally use blinds or curtains to control reflected glare or contrast glare.
  • Clean your screen periodically.
  • Move your eyes rather than your head when reading information on the screen.
  • If you use your VDU intensively on a regular basis and for long periods of time you may be entitled to a free eyesight test.


  • There should be no obstacles under your desk at your VDU position, such as storage boxes and waste paper bins.
  • The layout of items should be prioritised on the desk, with those things used most often closest to you.
  • If you are using a document holder adjust it so that it is the same height, slope and viewing distance as the screen and locate it as close to the side of the screen as possible.
  • If you are a touch typist and refer to the contents of a document holder more often than the screen, consider locating the screen to one side and having the document holder directly in front of you.
  • Where possible, your desk should be placed in such a way that you can sit sideways to a window and any other sources of bright light in the room.
  • Keep cables under your desk tidy and ensure they do not cause a trip hazard.

Work Environment

  • Ensure the lighting levels in your room are sufficient to read the screen and any documents you may refer to.
  • Where possible adjust as necessary the internal climate by opening or closing windows, or using a fan.

Work Organisation

  • Try to maintain a consistent pace and level of VDU tasks within your day-to-day work.
  • Perform tasks away from the VDU so far as possible.
  • Spread out non-VDU tasks throughout the working day.
  • Take a mix of micro-breaks (e.g. a phone call, a photo-copy), mini-breaks (e.g. a coffee break) and macro-breaks (e.g. a meeting, or lunch break)
  • Take your lunch break away from your desk
  • Take breaks before you get tired or experience discomfort.


  • Use easy-to-read fonts such as Arial.
  • Limit the number of colours you use on the screen.
  • Avoid large areas of white if your screen appears to flicker.
  • Use pastel background colours if reflections are a problem on your screen. The appearance of your screen can be changed. If you are a thin client user, right click on the desktop and go to Properties. If you are a thick client user go to Start, Settings, Control Panel, Display under the Appearance tab.
  • Use the zoom facility within the View menu to increase the size of the document on the screen.
  • Reduce clutter on your screen by removing unused toolbars.
  • Speed up the movement of the mouse pointer across the screen if you need to move the mouse long distances, or if you have a large screen - or slow the speed of the mouse pointer if it is difficult to keep track of, or position.
  • The set-up of the mouse can be changed. If you are a thin client user through Start, Programmes, Accessories,
  • Accessibility, Mouse. If you are a thick client user through Start, Settings, Control Panel, Mouse.
  • Reduce your dependency on mouse inputs by using keyboard equivalents and shortcuts
  • See, in the Safety Information section.


  • If you begin to experience any discomfort or other problems that you think are related to the use of your VDU inform your line manager straight away.
  • It is very important that you do this immediately so that remedial action can be taken before you experience any further discomfort or cause long-term damage.
  • Your line manager may need assistance to help you and may call upon our VDU Adviser who has been trained to help with this type of problem.
  • You should expect that after your workstation has been examined and the problem
    discussed with you, practical suggestions are put in place to resolve the situation.