Ergonomics – the science of designing the environment around the individual to reduce the risk of injury



In an era where most office workers are required to sit at a computer for long periods of time it is even more important to have a good understanding of ergonomics and to make sure your workstation is meeting the necessary requirements for a comfortable and safe environment.

Sound ergonomic practice is fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population.  Effective and successful “fits” assure high productivity, avoidance of illness and injury risks, and increased satisfaction among the workforce.  Ergonomics considers the physical and mental capabilities of the worker and how he/she interacts with equipment, work methods, tasks and the working environment.

While it is obvious that people can injure themselves when they fall, twist or jolt their body, the more insidious and slow effects of poor environment cannot be underestimated.  Several simple changes in the work place environment can significantly reduce chronic, ongoing neck, back and upper limb pain.  The answer is to make sure that the body is not compromised at all in the work place by ensuring your body position and posture is conducive to comfort and that you avoid any physical discomfort.

The obvious place to start organising your work space is to make sure files, folders and other documents are accessible with ease and little effort.  Place the items frequently used in the most easily retrievable position.  The following are a few tips to achieve correct ergonomics at your workstation or desk:

  1. Your chair should be set up so your back is supported and your elbows are even with the level of your desk. 
  2. Your feet should rest solidly and comfortably on the floor whilst sitting, if not you should use a footrest.
  3. Your knees should be 90 degrees and directly above your feet.
  4. Position your thighs horizontal with the knees, at the same level as the hips and have your back against the back rest.
  5. Your wrists should be straight and forearms horizontal whilst using the keyboard.
  6. Your keyboard and monitor should be directly in front of your chair.
  7. The keyboard and mouse should be as close as possible to avoid reaching.
  8. Your elbows should be as close to your body as possible enabling your shoulders to relax.
  9. The top of your monitor should be at eye level and your head should be upright.
  10. Use blinds or curtains to limit reflection or light.
  11. Wipe monitor screens regularly to remove dust that adds to glare.
  12. Take regular breaks.

It is recommended that you take regular short breaks by standing, stretching or walking around.  In this day of technology it is usual practice to consult colleagues by email, but it could be that walking over to their desk is beneficial providing an immediate response as well as whole body movement to restore circulation and relieve muscle fatigue, including the eye muscles.  Back fatigue is relieved by simply alternating from a sitting to a standing posture and walking around.

The sound application of ergonomic principles at work boosts productivity and not only provides a positive return on investment but also leads to a better quality of work life.

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

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