The IT Workstation
If you or your staff spend considerable periods of time working in front of computers, musculoskeletal disorders can potentially have a major impact on your business. Recent research indicates that 50% of computer users have suffered from some type of computer related injury, in particular, people in the 18-24 year age group seem to suffer the most, with up to 70% of people having endured one form of injury or another.
The most common problems include eye strain, headaches, back ache, wrist pain, lower arm pain, elbow pain, shoulder pain and neck pain. Some people can go on to develop repetitive strain injury, chronic pain syndromes and fibromyalgia (myofacial pain syndrome), and have other psychological disturbances such as sleep disturbance etc.
The Health and Safety regulations are applied where staff use VDU’s (visual display units), such as computers, as a large part of their work. These Health and Safety regulations require employers to:
- Analyse work stations.
- Assess and reduce risks
- Ensure workstations meet minimum requirements, including requirements which are set out for the VDU keyboards, desks, chairs, lighting and other aspects of the environment.
- Arrange eye tests, if requested by employees.
- Plan work so there are regular breaks and changes in activity.
- Provide health and safety training information, available from the Health & Safety Executive.
Work with Display Screen Equipment
The key to getting a good workstation is paying attention to the foundations on which the ergonomics is based. The environment and equipment should be chosen to suit the people using it and certainly not force operators into positions that may, over time, cause serious musculoskeletal injury or disorders to occur.
Desks should be large enough to position the monitor so it is straight in front of you. The chair should be height adjustable and fit easily under the desk. Chair height should be such that your forearms are horizontal with your elbows and your feet should be squarely on the floor. After adjusting a chair for the typing position, if the feet do not touch the floor, a foot rest may be helpful. The lower back should be properly supported and there are various pillows and other supports available.
Your eyes should be in line with the top of the monitor for the optimum viewing angle, with the monitor approximately 50-65 cm away from the eyes to allow them to focus easily.
Do not put anything between you and the keyboard, unless it is a wrist rest and you wish to use it. Your arms should be at right angles to the keyboard.
Wireless mice give maximum versatility and positioning. The mouse should be kept close to they keyboard so there is no requirement to stretch or reach, and the mouse should fit easily within your hand with each button and track wheel easily reachable by the fingers.
Look closely at how your desk is positioned in relation to windows. You should try to eliminate glare by positioning your desk at right angles to the windows. Also, pay attention to temperature and any draughts in the office.
Musculoskeletal Disorders and Computer usage
Musculoskeletal disorders are becoming an increasing health problem in todays IT driven society and there are many thousands of people who are suffering from them. Most importantly, the majority of these can be avoided with a little thought as to how to use the technology around us. Simple steps like rearranging the office area or changing the position of the workstation or chair can have a major impact on this.