From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

BIFMA Releases Ergonomic Guidelines for Office Furniture

The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association (BIFMA) has released the guideline titled, “The Ergonomics Guideline for VDT (Visual Display Terminal) Furniture used in Office
Work Spaces”.

BIFMA’s Ergonomics Subcommittee has developed a guideline for office furniture intended for “extensive computer use” by applying the measurable principles and design requirements of ISO 9241 parts 3 (“Visual display requirements”) and 5 (“Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display units”).

ISO 9241-3 and 9241-5 represent accepted principles for office ergonomics. They also provide guidance for evaluating workstation furniture that conforms to the body sizes of the working population. Because body sizes vary widely in different parts of the world, ISO 9241-3 and ISO 9241-5 do not provide specific dimensions for workstation components such as chairs and work surfaces.

BIFMA explains that it has not attempted to develop an ergonomic standard. Instead it has chosen to provide a guideline that applies ISO principles of ISO 9241-3,-5.

In addition to ISO 9241, BIFMA used data from ANSI/HFS 100 (1988), CAN/CSA Z412 (2000) and CAN/CGSB 44-232 (1997) and 44-227 (1997).

The guideline primarily addresses the concept of ‘fit’. ‘Fit’ is defined by ISO 9241 as:

“Selection and design of furniture and equipment requires a fit to be achieved between a range of task requirements and the needs of users. The concept of fit concerns the extent to which furniture and equipment (work chairs, work surfaces, visual display units, input devices, etc.) can accommodate individual users’ needs.

Good fit is needed for the intended user population including users sharing workstations and users with special needs, e.g. handicapped persons. Fit can be accomplished by furniture built for a specified use (or user), or be provided in a range of sizes and forms or by adjustability and combinations thereof.

Since, except under special circumstances, workstations cannot be custom-made for individual users, some alternative forms of ensuring a good fit are required. The extent to which the workstation provides a good fit between the requirements of users and their work should be of primary consideration.”

The BIFMA guideline addresses the topic of general workstation considerations as well as specific topics such as work chair lumbar support and arm rests, and work surface height, depth and clearance.

Established in 1973, BIFMA International is a not-for-profit trade association of furniture manufacturers and suppliers addressing issues of common concern. The association’s membership of over 260 companies represents over 80% of the value of North American shipments of office furniture.

BIFMA’s mission is to serve the North American office and business furniture manufacturing industry as an information resource, industry advocate and by offering professional and industry-wide trade development opportunities.

The guideline is available for US $50 at