Workstation Ergonomics – Help prevent the occurrence of injuries

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Repetitive stress injuries (RSI’s) or occupational overuse syndrome (OOS) are musculoskeletal disorders caused due to an accumulation of very slight traumas to bone, muscle, connective tissues and nerves that eventually cause pain, numbness, loss of motion, weakness, swelling and other symptoms  The body parts most commonly involved are the fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, spine, knees and ankles.

Although excessive and/or repetitive forces are known causal factors, reduced blood circulation due to poor posture, stress related muscle tension or sustained muscle contraction (static postures) also play a role. Reduced blood flow, prevents oxygenation of cells and the removal of waste products from cell biological activity (McDermott, H et al. 2004). Some common repetitive stress injuries associated with computer use include; Bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, epicondylitis, tendinitis, thoracic outlet syndrome.

For computer based ergonomics it is important not only to assess the set up of the workstation for the employee but also assess their behavior at the workstation. Key behaviors include taking adequate mini-breaks, performing recommended stretching exercises, using minimum key stroke pressure; and proper use of ergonomic aids such as a document holder and foot stools (McDermott, H et al. 2004).

  • Are you experiencing pain at your desk?
  • Do you know how to set up your work station?
  • Do you take adequate breaks from your desk?

10 points for a more comfortable work station

  1. Take breaks from your desk – short mini-breaks such as standing and moving around the office should be done twice per hour. Frequent mini-breaks are better than one prolonged break to aid recovery of muscles, improve circulation and prevent muscle fatigue.
  2. Report symptoms of pain or discomfort early. This will prevent the problem getting worse and there may be some small changes that can be made to improve your work station.
  3. Computer screen – Top of the screen should be at eye level or just below. Visual angle is 10-30˚ below horizontal. Computer screen should be arms length away from seat position.
  4. Keyboard and mouse – Should be positioned close to the edge of the desk to allow elbows to be close to the body. Check the position of these objects through out the day as they may have moved further away.
  5. Chair Height – seat height should allow feet to be flat on the floor or on a foot stool. Knee’s should clear the edge of the seat by 2 fingers. The knees should be slightly above the hips to reduce pressure on the backs of the legs.
  6. Chair Back – the back of the seat should be upright or slightly reclined. Low back and upper back should feel supported.  Shoulders should be touching the back of the chair.
  7. Head and neck position – If you are mostly using a computer, you should be sitting directly in front. Watch that the head does not drop forward especially as the day goes on.
  8. Elbow and wrist – The elbows should be in line with the wrist or slightly above forming a 90˚ – 100˚ angle.
  9. Take regular breaks and perform stretches throughout the day.
  10. Before symptoms progress, seek professional help with Massage, Osteopathy and Exercise.

If you would like your work station assessed we have been working closely with Corporate Work Health Australia for work station assessment.

References:

  1. Worksafe Victoria:  Officewise- a guide to health and safety in the office.
  2. McDermott, H, Lopez, K, Weiss, B. Computer Ergonomics Programs, ASSE. 2004
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