"Back pain is endemic in South Africa - a large percentage of the country's workforce is suffering from acute discomfort and even disability due to problems which arise from low back pain.
Astonishingly, backaches - after colds and flu - are the biggest cause of absenteeism. Though there are no official figures available on the cost of disability, it is estimated that worker disability costs the economy more than R2-billion a year.
Several factors combine to cause backache. Office workers spend more than 90 percent of their working time in a sedentary position, which is about 80 000 hours during a working lifetime.
Incorrect sitting postures are responsible for many muscular ailments, resulting in reduced motivation and work output.
As a result, more and more organisations are investigating ergonomic practices for their office environments, to improve the interaction between the human body, work-related conditions and work tools.
By implementing ergonomics in the workplace, employers can decrease the risk of injury and illness, enhance productivity through the optimal use of all resources in the working environment, and improve employees' overall quality of work life.
However, this calls for a complete rethink of the way in which furniture is designed and used, says Robbie Bergh, group managing director of CN Business Furniture.
"Through education on ergonomics, employees can be trained to use their work space correctly and prevent the cumulative cycle of ailments such as fatigue … In turn, absenteeism due to these and other related ailments is reduced."
Ergonomic solutions can be simple and straightforward to apply. Often small changes such as altering the height of a chair is all that is needed to make a big difference to an employee's comfort levels.
He offers these useful guidelines to help workers create an optimal work environment:
# Adjust your workstation to suit you: sit as far back into the seat as possible. Place your feet firmly on the floor, and adjust the seat height to ensure your knees are bent at right angles to the thighs (90 to 95 degrees).
# Legs must fit comfortably under the desktop, with sufficient space to allow for movement and stretching.
# Raise the height of the arm-rests towards the base of the elbows (bent at a 45 degrees angle)." (Continued via IOLjobs) [Ergonomics Resources]