Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Office Ergonomics 101 - Part 1

Tips for setting-up an ergonomic office ...

"You go home each day with a pain in your shoulder or neck, perhaps you wake up at night with tingling in your wrist or hand. You used to feel good all day long but now you hurt after just a few minutes at the computer. What to do? You have budget information to enter in spreadsheets, you have a stack of reports to do, and it seems you get two emails to respond to for every one you send. This means hours and hours glued to your keyboard and mouse.

More and more, jobs require a substantial portion of the day working with a computer. Very often pain and discomfort experienced at work or at home can be tied to easily identified risk factors. Most of us have heard the term ergonomics. Simply put, ergonomics is the study of how people physically interact with their work environment to perform their required tasks. A phrase often heard to describe ergonomics is “fitting the task to the worker.” Poor ergonomic conditions and practices cause more losses in terms of employee suffering, lost time, and productivity than most other types of injury in the workplace.

Three fundamental ergonomic risk factors are: position/posture, repetition/duration, and force. These can all be influenced by the work area setup and the activity being performed. The good news is these at-risk conditions that can cause pain and potential injury, can often be easily controlled if one understands basic ergonomic concepts and how to apply them. In this article and the next we will take a look at these factors and provide some practical solutions to help get you through the day pain-free.

Position/Posture: The goal here is a neutral and balanced position. “Neutral” is typically thought of as the midpoint of range of motion for most joints (e.g. your wrist should be straight in both the up/down and side-to-side axis, your upper arm should hang comfortably from the shoulder, your back and neck should be straight and not twisted or bent). Balanced in the ergonomic sense is when a posture or position is such that one does not have to fight (much) gravity to maintain that posture or position.

Let’s look at some of the most common position-related complaints we see. These are often the easiest to correct and can have very dramatic improvement in discomfort in a relatively short timeframe.

Neck Pain: Your head weighs about as much as a bowling ball. Holding a bowling ball straight upright takes some effort. Now visualize you are balancing a bowling ball (your head) on a cylinder (your neck). If you begin to tip the cylinder, it becomes harder and harder to support. When you sit upright and are looking directly ahead your skeletal structure supports most of the weight. If you deviate from vertical, your muscles must come increasingly into play to support your head. Now imagine tipping and lifting that bowling ball hundreds of time a day – that is exactly what you are doing when working from hardcopy placed on your desk. Similarly, if your monitor is placed on the CPU so you must tip your head back to read (particularly problematic for those of you wearing bifocals) your muscles must support this off-balance posture. A much better approach is to place your hardcopy on a document stand between the keyboard and monitor. The monitor should be directly in front of you with the top of the screen just at or slightly below eye level. This way instead of repetitive up/down and side-to-side head motion one can look back and forth between paper and screen almost by using your eyes alone allowing you to remain in a neutral, balanced position.

Holding the telephone receiver cradled between your ear and shoulder while doing other tasks is also a classic cause of neck pain if you do so on a regular basis. Hold the receiver in your hand if possible. Use a speakerphone or a headset if you must speak on the phone while working, such as reviewing written materials or computer files while conversing."    (Continued via Forensic Magazine)    [Ergonomics Resources]

Adjustable Height Keyboard - Ergonomics

Adjustable Height Keyboard

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