Friday, February 15, 2008

HEALTH MATTERS: Ergonomics -- Avoiding injury in workplace

Avoiding RSI injuries in the workplace ...

"Each year, thousands of Americans miss work due to sprains and strains caused by repeating the same motion over and over again.

Whether reaching for the computer mouse, typing on a keyboard or sitting in a chair too long, repetitive actions can lead to small injuries that too often lead to larger injuries. Put another way: Cumulative micro- trauma leads to macro-trauma. And macro- trauma leads to days away from work.

However, repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, neck pain and shoulder pain can often be avoided with a few simple steps to improve the ergonomic conditions of the workspace.

In fact, if an office is set up properly, it can be a win-win for the employee and the employer. When employees feel better and avoid injury, employers pay less in worker’s compensation and have better productivity rates.

Let’s start with the computer, as more and more workers are using computers to do their jobs. Neck injuries often occur when a computer monitor is too high or too low. Either the employee is constantly looking up or constantly looking down. A good rule of thumb is to make sure the first line of print is at about eye level.

Second, for employees who read a lot of documents, a document holder is a must in avoiding neck injuries. A holder helps workers keep their gaze ahead and avoid the need to repeatedly turn their heads and neck to look down. Reading and writing desks also are helpful in avoiding neck strain.

When it comes to typing, it is important to remember that a wrist rest is just that — a rest. Too often people plant their wrists on the rest, which does little good as wrists should be straight and actually floating in the air. The keyboard position should allow the forearms to be parallel to floor and the elbows to be keyboard height. Additionally, the mouse should be right next to the keyboard to eliminate the need to reach.

In order to ensure the keyboard is at elbow height, it may be necessary to raise the chair. In this case, employees need to make sure their feet aren’t dangling. Many people, however, will slide forward in their chairs, which leaves their back unsupported. A better approach would be using a footrest to prop up the feet. Footrests come in varying heights depending on how tall a person is. Those with grips tend to work a little better than those with a more slippery surface. Ultimately, when sitting in a chair, the knees should be even with the hips and the elbows should be even with the keyboard."    (Continued via Packet Online)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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