Have you ever experienced numbness in your hand, stiffness in your back, aching in your knees? Your work environment could be part of the cause, putting you at risk for further discomfort in the future.Work-related musculoskeletal disorders—nerve damage from typing and injuries caused by improper lifting—account for 40 percent of all lost-time claims in Ontario workplaces, translating into hundreds of millions of dollars lost to absenteeism and lost productivity. These figures are similar in other provinces and territories.More and more physicians and scientists are recommending that these injuries be prevented by paying special attention to a little something called ergonomics.Ergonomics is the scientific study of the way humans work. In ergonomics, a worker’s capabilities are taken into account in direct relation to the tasks required of him or her. Overall, ergonomics adapts the work to fit the worker, instead of forcing the worker to adapt to the work. Doing so ensures that tasks, equipment, information and the workplace environment maximize productivity and prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders.Take heed of these simple steps you can take to make your office’s workstations more ergonomic, perhaps even alleviating that numbness, stiffness or aching which may in turn reduce workers’ compensation claims and sick days. Your business should educate employees on the following points, perhaps even including them in a toolkit for employees along with giveaways, like those mentioned below, that reinforce the messaging.
- Watch out for repetitive motions, like computer mouse use and scrolling, stapling and typing. It’s these repetitive actions that can cause carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis—two of the most painful work-related musculoskeletal disorders out there. Encourage employees to take frequent breaks when possible and give them a hand in working out kinks by offering staff stress balls.
- As a rule of thumb, desks—or at least the keyboard tray—should hit between the belly and the bottom of the rib cage and should be at least long enough to account for 24 to 27 inches of workable space. Urge employees to keep their computer mice in this space with a Wireless Mouse.
- Let employees know that when seated at a desk, they should keep their head level with work directly in front of the body. Be sure that you’re also sitting with your shoulders relaxed—not elevated, hunched or rotated—and that you are keeping your elbows close to your sides and bent at about a 90 degree angle.
- Staff should keep items that are frequently used while at their desk—like pens, pads of paper and the telephone—within a 16 to 18 inch reach area that allows them to grab items without stretching or straining. Provide a Cube Office Organizer to help keep things handy.
- Offer chairs with lumbar support that decrease the weight placed on a person’s back when seated for long periods of time. Many adjustable task chairs have this feature built in and can usually be adjusted to suit the worker. For standard chairs, lumbar cushions can be purchased from most office or medical supply stores for around $15-25 per cushion.
- Tell employees to try not to sit for long periods of time; they should get up and stretch their legs and back frequently. Hand out back massage tools to help them stay loose and refreshed throughout the day.
- Employees should sit with their knees at the same level or slightly below the level of their hips. There should be no pressure points along the backs of the thighs or knees. Many adjustable tasks chairs also feature seats with a sloped edge or the ability to adjust the seat angle to help prevent pressure points. Keep stools on hand for aiding shorter staff members in this posture.
- Pay attention to the light in your workspace. Ideal light levels for computer use are actually lower than the light required for reading. Grab a desk lamp if needed to improve existing light.
- Consider keeping a space heater and a small fan on hand to adjust workspace temperature as needed for maximum comfort and efficiency.
Try ergonomics on for size today to increase your comfort while becoming more productive and happier at work.
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MSD Prevention Guideline for Ontario. Publication. Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario. Web. 28 Apr. 2010.