By Brittany Pullen MA, ATC
(October 26, 2016) — Do you ever experience pain or discomfort while working at your desk? Do you experience headaches, eye strain, shoulder, neck or back pain while sitting at your workstation? If you answered yes, then your office may have some shaping up to do.
What exactly is ergonomics?
Ergonomics is defined as “an applied science concerned with designing and arranging items people use so that people and things interact most efficiently.”
How do we apply ergonomics to our everyday workplace settings?
Safety first! Ergonomic safety is all about fitting the job to the person, not the person to the job. Often overlooked in many workplace settings, fitting the job to the person is important to decrease muscle fatigue, reduce the number and severity of work-related musculoskeletal injuries and increase productivity.
Not all musculoskeletal injuries happen as a result of athletic injuries. Injuries happen in the workplace too!
Common Ergonomic Injuries
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Contact Stress Injury (wrist and forearms resting on hard, sharp surfaces)
- Postural Deficiencies
- Repetitive Stress (ex: repetitive, typing, mouse clicking and reaching)
Ways to Stay Safe and Prevent Ergonomic Injuries
- For every one hour of work, take a 5 minute break!
- Stretch frequently
- Vary postures and tasks throughout the day to decrease repetitive action and stressors
- Walk and Talk – while taking phone calls and/or instead of e-mailing a co-worker, walk to his/her desk to chat
- Avoid eating lunch at your desk
- Stand while working – if available, take advantage of height adjustable workstations
- Organize your workspace and keep items within easy reach distance
- Use elbow, palm or wrist pads to avoid contact stress
- Decrease direct laptop use – implement the use of external devices such as wireless mouse, laptop riser and wireless keyboard
- Maintain regular exercise
Height Adjustable Workstations
You might be asking yourself, “what is a height adjustable workstation?” Height adjustable workstations can be a fantastic resource and addition to any workplace. There are so many benefits to using the height adjustable workstations and they promote a healthy lifestyle at work and outside of work.
- Improved concentration and focus
- Increase circulation
- Reduced low back, neck and shoulder pain
- Reduce the risk of obesity by encouraging anti-sedentary work environments
- Can increase low back pain due to standing for long periods of time
- Fatigue in feet and legs
- Not understanding
- Wear comfortable and supportive shoes – it is not recommended to use standing workstations while wearing flat shoes or high heels
- Begin standing by taking short interval breaks to work up to longer standing times
- Use standing as a prompt to take a short breaks (ex: set an alarm on the hour to stand and work for 5-10 minutes)
- Implement use of an anti-fatigue mat to increase comfort while standing
Are you in Ergo Shape? Take an Ergo Break and Assess your Workstation!
Eyes to source: Ensure the computer screen is an arm’s length away and at eye level or slightly below. If you use bi-focal lenses, lower the screen to avoid any awkward neck postures.
Hands to input devices: Avoid reaching for the mouse and keyboard. Keyboard legs should always be flat and close to the body to avoid reaching.
Body to Chair: Knees and hips should be at 90-100 degrees and thighs should be parallel to the floor. The seat pan should be adjusted to allow 2-3 fingers behind the back of the knee and the chair. Also adjust arm rests to allow for elbows to be at a 90 degree angle. Ensure your desk is around belly button height.
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