3. Controlling the risks

Once hazards have been identified through any of the approaches in Chapter 2: Identifying ergonomic and workspace hazards and risks, principals or their delegates, in consultation with:

  • school staff who are, or are likely to be, affected
  • health and safety representatives (HSRs), where elected

must put controls in place to eliminate or reduce the level of risk (so far as reasonably practicable) associated. Controlling the risk is all about removing or reducing the likelihood of injury.

Many ergonomic and workspace hazards can be prevented with a mix of controls, including appropriate equipment selection and setup, good planning of the workspace layout and implementation of good ergonomic behaviours.

Personal ergonomics controls

Personal workspace habits can impact musculoskeletal comfort and risk of injury. Changing posture every 20 to 30 minutes is the most effective strategy to minimise musculoskeletal discomfort and reduce risk of injury. This can be done by:

  • changing tasks to change posture every 20 to 30 minutes throughout the day
  • changing work locations, such as moving to different classrooms where possible
  • using stand up desks or higher workstations
  • using calendar reminders or phone alarms to get up and move
  • taking the stairs instead of the lift
  • regularly taking breaks away from a workstation or screen by standing, stretching, getting a glass of water or walking meetings
  • avoiding sitting on children’s furniture or bending with the back to meet the child’s eye level (instead, bend using the legs or pull up a chair to a classroom table rather than leaning over or bring personal chair over to a nearby desk)
  • when standing, spreading weight evenly across both feet, keeping knees lightly bent, keeping feet shoulder width apart, standing straight and tall with shoulders pulled back
  • keeping wrists straight and hands at or below elbow level when working on a laptop or computer
  • swapping mouse use between hands (for example, one week using right hand, next week using left)
  • taking meal breaks away from the workstation
  • using alternate work locations that may be more suitable where possible, such as technology rooms
  • introducing stretching or walking into classroom activities – this helps staff and students.

Workstation design controls

Flexibility and adjustability are key design elements for workstations, where staff can adjust based on their personal needs to perform the required task safely. Controls to address workstation related risks may include:

  • tables and desks of an appropriate standing and sitting height, or are able to be adjusted
  • user adjustable and ergonomic chairs
  • height adjustable monitor(s), monitor stands and laptop stands
  • document holders
  • foot stools
  • headsets
  • mouse and keyboard pads
  • ergonomic mouse, for example, a vertical mouse.

The above equipment must be approved for purchase by the principal or delegate and purchased in accordance with the Procurement in Schools policy and OHS Purchasing policy.

Workspace controls

Controls to address workspace related risks associated with setup and layout of equipment may include:

  • removing objects from under the desk such as boxes, bags and rubbish bins to allow movement of legs and chair
  • positioning monitors and chairs to avoid body twisting or awkward postures
  • placing frequently used items such as documents, phones and stationery within arm’s reach
  • setting up monitors at the right height and within arm’s reach
  • placing mouse and keyboard close to the edge of the desk for easy use and leaving enough room to support the wrists.

Using the OHS risk register (XLSX)External Link will help identify if the control and measures taken reduce the level of risk to an acceptable level. For support with this process, including when implemented controls are inadequate, contact the OHS Advisory Service.

Includes information on personal ergonomic controls, workstation design controls and workspace controls

Reviewed 22 March 2024

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