Monday, April 09, 2007

Blueprint for a healthy workstation

More tips for setting-up an ergonomic workstation ...

"As I sit and type this story, my elbows are hanging by my side. That’s not good.
According to Shona Anderson, a certified Canadian professional ergonomist and owner of Calgary-based Anderson Ergonomics Consulting Inc., hanging elbows cause more muscle fatigue. I should have my arms resting on my armrests, but the rests are too wide. No wonder I have sore shoulders at the end of the day.

If you’re like me, you need to do some rearranging to achieve a healthy workspace. Believe it or not, desk jobs can be exhausting, even though you’re sitting on your fanny all day. Tiny, repetitive movements really add up over the course of a day, week and year, sometimes with debilitating results. Carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches and back problems are some of the injuries that can arise.

“If you’re not set up properly, it causes a lot of muscle tension in various parts of the body,” says Anderson.

Considering we spend a significant amount of time at our desks, it’s crucial to have a good setup. “People get pain if they’re not set up properly,” she says, noting the pain usually starts in the shoulders and upper back.

To help you get the ideal workspace, here are Anderson’s ergonomic tips, labelled one to eight. Start with No. 1 — the chair — and work your way out from there. “The chair is really critical in the workstation,” she says. “It’s the most important thing.”

Ergonomic tips

1. Plant your feet on the floor, with your knees and hips bent at about 90 degrees. You should feel your weight through your sitting bone, not through your thighs.
Adjust the outward curve in the chair’s back to fit the small of your back. Your lower back should curve around it and your shoulder blades should come back and touch the chair. Anderson says people often don’t touch their shoulder blades to the back of the chair, but it’s important. “That helps to ease muscle contractions in the upper back and neck.”

2. Make sure you have a space between the back of your knee and the front edge of the seat. You should be able to fit three to four fingers of space between them. Some chairs will allow you to adjust the seat depth. “If there isn’t that space, then people tend to sit forward on their chair. They perch.” If you have strong core muscles and can maintain good posture while perching, it may not be a problem. But most people can hold themselves straight for only 10 minutes. When you perch, she adds, you end up in a slouching position and that puts pressure on the discs and the muscles in your back.

3. With your elbows bent at about 90 degrees and resting close to your hips, set up your armrests to support at that height no higher. “You don’t want to have to use your shoulder to raise your arm to reach the rest,” Anderson says. “Most armrests are too high, and people tend to have these really tight shoulders.” Let the armrests support your arms so you don’t have to."    (Continued via Ottawa Citizen)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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