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Home Forums General Ergonomics Topics Innovative solutions to replace the use of Keyboard Trays

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    [private user]

    I am fairly new to ergonomics, and from what I understand keyboard trays have their time and place, but it seems that the majority of reports, discussions, and forum threads I have read advise against the use of keyboard trays as a "band-aid" solution.  So here is my problem-

    I am coming into an organization where ergonomics assessments were previously contracted out.  Upon reading the ergonomics assessment reports I noticed that the equipment recommendations were

    a) all the same – they recommended the EXACT same equipment for each employee regardelss of anthropometrics.

    b) Equipment suggestions were often very costly, and recommended to be purchased from a certain distributor.

    with that being said – I have a situation where a specific keyboard tray was suggested to ALL employees. One of the employees is very tall, and use of the key board tray would inhibit leg clearance, and move her so far away from her desk due to clearance issues that she would no longer be within her immediate workspace. I would like to get away from the use of keyboard trays, and was wondering if anyone has any innovative ideas for an alternate solution?

    Any suggestions would be much appreciated.


    Thanks :-)



    I am not a fan especially of the straight pull-out keyboard trays. If your taller person is experiencing poor leg clearance, the tray is most likely too low for her to use anyway.

    I also do not use keyboard trays much because they push the person further away from the desk work. Especially problematic if they need to write things down while doing computer work.

    There are some keyboard tray options that are adjustable in height and that can be raised or lowered for the individual by unlocking a lever.

    That said, I would only use keyboard trays where needed on an individual basis and only when appropriate.


    [private user]

    Andrea – I am not a fan of keyboard trays either. They are at best a stop-gap solution to a more radical change in workstation furniture. When presented with a situation that you have outlined, I step back and look at the "big" picture.  What type of workplace furniture (desk) is being used ? Can this furniture be modified to overcome the issue of making a worksurface height which will be appropriate for 5th%F to 95%M persons, and hence allowing the keyboard and mouse to be placed on the worksurface. 

    An approach I have been using for many years, in conjunction with the workplace owner, is to evaluate the construction of the furniture. If desks are made from wood (or some wood-type material) can the height be lowered by shortening the legs or cutting the supporting skirt ?  If the desks are metal, can the support legs (often tubular or square posts) be shortened ?  This usually illicits howls from the owner about destroying "valuable" furniture. However when they check they find the "value" has been written off years ago. 

    Having got through this phase, you can now suggest that all furniture be reduced in height to 24 ins. (more howls!).  But you now request that a multiple number of one inch thick wooden pads (4ins square) be made. To raise the desk to 25ins – add one to each leg (or corner). For 26ins, add two pads to each leg (or corner). For 27ins, add three. You have now satisfied the worksurface height of 90% of users. Now you can point out that all desks are fully adjustable, simply by removing or adding one inch pads. Suzie moves to Bob's desk – remove one or two pads, or visa versa, add one or two pads. 

    You will meet skeptical owners, but my experience of 20+ years is that once implemented the workers love it, and management is happy. Productivity increases; absenteeism is reduced.

    Good luck,

    Jeremy Rickards 


    [private user]

    I am not a fan of keyboard trays either. I like to sit the person in close to the front edge of the desk with their back well supported on the chair back – especially the upper back.  The keyboard and mouse are perfectly placed at the front of the desk.

    If the desk is not an adjustable one either mechanically or electrically I use desk risers to increase the desk height. An example are a product called Raise Its. This works well for a tall person. For a short person where the desk is too high I adjust the chair height upwards and add an adjustable height footrest. The range of height in the chair gas lift is usually adequate but if not you can change the gas lift for one with more height.



    [private user]


    My "specialty" is safety in general and I am not a trained ergonomist, but want to offer input on some of our solutions:

    I use a contract ergonomist to assess new hires and anyone who asks for an assessment, or anyone that I hear about who has discomfort. We have a cubicle "office" layout so there is some latitude in work surface height, but with a lower limit based on under-surface drawers.

    We use a design/risk assessment approach to first identify the kind of work done: is a lot of phone or paper used, is the work primarily with the keyboard and monitor, or a lot of mousing, etc,. and then look at what they are using now, starting with the chair.

    We probably provide keyboards for about 50% of our staff, including some sit/stand configurations, and set the work surface height for others. This generally works out well, but I have also found that we need to revisit people when we make major changes–they often do not sit properly or sometimes revert to a bad posture. There have also been some times that a reset will exacerbate a previously unkown MSD so the revisit is good "PR" and helps us identify any ongoing issues.

    The process has almost as much people/political issues as ergo design, and we want our people to be healthy and happy.

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