Finding the right "ergonomic" chair is a common problem especially for people who want to purchase new equipment to make workstations safer and healthier places. There are many "ergonomic" chairs available but it can be a mistake to purchase one simply because it is labelled "ergonomic".
Ergonomic chairs are designed to suit a range of people; however, there is no guarantee that they will suit any one person in particular. For example, a chair could be too high and the arm rests too far apart for a short, slim person. In addition, chairs may not suit every task or arrangement at the workstation. A chair becomes ergonomic only when it specifically suits a worker's size (body dimensions), his or her particular workstation, and the tasks that must be performed there. It is possible to find the right chair although it is not always easy.
Today, in industrialized countries, many people sit for most of the time that they are awake. They sit while having breakfast, while going to work in cars or buses, in school classrooms, in meetings, in offices, during dinner, and at home while watching television. Many people also sit at work operating machines which new technology has developed to replace manual work. Although sitting requires less physical effort than standing or walking it puts a lot of stress on lumbar area. Combined effects of a sedentary lifestyle and a job that requires sitting can lead to many health problems.
The selection of a suitable chair is a critical step in preventing health problems in people who work in a sitting position. With the ergonomics approach, sitting is viewed as a specific, specialized activity which is influenced by the way that a sitting person interacts with the working environment.
Several basic concepts should be considered:
Some features are mandatory for a good chair regardless of how you intend to use it:
Other features to consider
Personal preference is essential to the process of selecting a chair.
A well-designed chair allows the user to sit in a balanced position. Buying an ergonomic chair is a good beginning but it may not bring the benefits expected. It is still important to sit properly.
Also, remember that the chair is only one of the components to be considered in workstation design. All the elements such as the chair, footrest (if needed), work surface, document holders, task lighting and so on need to have flexibility and adjustability to be "designed in".
For more information about selecting and adjusting an ergonomic chair please visit the OSH Answers document How to Adjust Office Chairs.
Document last updated on March 5, 2014