Thursday, July 10, 2008

Of mice and men at work

The rationale for workplace ergonomics ...

"As evolved as we think we are, our bodies haven't changed much from our caveman hunting-and-gathering days. Our physiology is designed for movement, not today's sedentary lifestyle, says Sharon Taylor, an Edmonton-based ergonomics expert ( "We're not designed to be sitting in a cubicle."

Yet, many Canadians earn a living glued to a monitor, hardly moving for most of the day. In fact, we spend more of our waking hours in our offices than in our homes.

"It's very important that they have their work stations, their environments, set up to meet their physical needs so they're not causing strain to their bodies," says Ms. Taylor, who is certified to practice across Canada.

Repetitive stress injuries -- which include carpel tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow -- can result from a workspace that doesn't work with the body.

These injuries are hard to shake, but easy to prevent, she says.

A computer mouse is one of the worst culprits, causing strain to the wrist, elbow and shoulder. Ms. Taylor says as many as 90% of complaints originate from improper use of the device. And small wonder: keyboards were invented to be used alone -- not with another tool.

However, as software has become increasingly mouse-centric, people are forced to shift awkwardly between keyboard and mouse, placing too much pressure on their mouse-using arm.

There are a couple of easy solutions to this problem. First of all, make sure your mouse pad has a palm rest, which, contrary to what most people think, is positioned underneath the palm not the wrist.

Also, use your mouse with your non-dominant hand for periods of the day.

Other elements of a workstation are also important. Desks should have keyboard trays positioned in a way that allows you to type with your shoulders relaxed, forearms parallel to the floor, and wrist straight and flat.

Because people reference written material at their computers, many hunch over to read. To avoid this, prop up material toward your face at about a 30-degree angle."    (Continued via Financial Post, Caitlin Crawshaw)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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