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Where OSHA The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration is WRONG about Good Working Positions

The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Good Working Positions (40)

  1. Hands, wrists, and forearms are straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor.
  2. Head is level, or bent slightly forward, forward facing, and balanced. Generally, it is in-line with the torso.
  3. Shoulders are relaxed and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.
  4. Elbows stay in close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
  5. Feet are fully supported by the floor or a footrest may be used if the desk height is not adjustable.
  6. Back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support when sitting vertical or leaning back slightly.
  7. Thighs and hips are supported by a well-padded seat and generally parallel to the floor. Knees are about the same height as the hips with the feet slightly forward.”

The OSHA Positions were determined by people and people make mistakes. Here is where I agree with OSHA and where I do not and why.

  1. Hands, wrists, and forearms — I agree.
  2. Head and torso— I disagree – If your head and upper body is bent slightly forward the muscles of the upper back and neck will be in a constant contraction attempting to maintain your head from falling forward. You should just stack your head directly you’re your neck and relax. Remember “Stack and Relax”.
  3. Shoulders and upper arms— I disagree – Your arms should not hang, as this causes fatigue in your trapezius and levator scapula muscles. Rest your arms on the arm rests.
  4. Elbows — I disagree – The elbows should be exactly at 90 degrees slightly above the desktop.
  5. Feet — I agree.
  6. Back — I disagree – Your back should never be supported. Your abdominal muscles support your back.
  7. Thighs and hips — I agree.
  8. Knees and feet — I disagree – All your body parts should be either horizontal or perpendicular and never on angles for an extended period of time.

If OSHA wants to challenge me on my opinions, I can prove with surface EMG testing their sitting recommendations will lead to sustained contractions of muscles therefor sustained strain on the muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones. Id love to do a study with them to prove it.
If you go to the OSHA web site listed below and look at the Computer Stations eTool you will see 4 examples of body posture changes that all provide neutral positioning for the body.

  1. Upright Sitting – In this photo they say its ok to lean back on the back rest. This causes the body to lean back out of the perpendicular position. In this position the 9-12 pound head is held in a sustained angled position forcing the anterior cervical, anterior and middle scalene muscles to remain in a sustained contraction. Never sit this way. Sitting in this position could cause and will exacerbate a thoracic outlet syndrome.
  2. Standing – Standing for a sustained period of time will strain the tibialis posterior, tibialis anterior, peroneus longus, peroneus brevis muscles or what I call the arch spring suspension muscles. This constant strain on the arch of the foot can also stretch and strain the ligaments of the foot and lead to a drop and lock of the joints of the arch causing abnormal motion during walking. Conditions caused by sustained standing include plantar fasciitis, ankle pain, knee pain, chondromalacia patella, illiotibial band syndrome, hip and lower back pain, varicose veins and more.
  3. Declined Sitting – In this position the legs are not horizontal and perpendicular. If the body senses you could slide forward the gluteal muscles will contract constantly to prevent this. Sitting for long periods of time in this position can cause lower back and hip pain.

Reclined Sitting – This position is the absolute worse position to sit in if you would like to prevent neck strain, neck pain, scalene spasms leading to a possible thoracic outlet syndrome or exacerbation of thoracic outlet syndrome.
Again, in this position the 9-12 pound head is held in a sustained angled position forcing the anterior cervical, anterior and middle scalene muscles to remain in a sustained contraction. Never sit this way at work, home or anywhere. If you do you will never reverse a TOS no matter how many treatments you get.
OSHA should delete this article and apologize for misguiding the public on “good working positions”

If you are the safety director for a company and would like me to do a fun and informative workshop for your workers on how to avoid workplace injuries, please contact us at

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