Making Your Computer Truly “User-Friendly”

BadPostureMany computer jobs offer few opportunities for alternate activities or postures, and, thanks to the fluidity of computer keyboards, workers can key faster and for longer uninterrupted stretches than ever before.


Although your own work habits can contribute to back and shoulder pain, using good posture is not a simple matter of finding the “right” position in which to sit. Even “poor” postures (feet up on chair rungs, slumping, twisting your body into odd positions) can prove comfortable if you don’t remain in them for extended periods of time. In fact, shifting about periodically proves useful for many people.

  • Ergonomic specialists recommend the following changes to your behavior and work environment to avoid back, neck, and shoulder pain:
  • Change your body position periodically throughout the day.
  • Use a document stand to reduce the amount of neck twisting or bending forward if typing from a source document.
  • Position your keyboard directly in front of you and at approximately elbow height. This should enable you to type with straight wrists. If this is not possible with the keyboard atop the work surface, use an adjustable-height keyboard tray.
  • Center your monitor with your keyboard and chair.
  • Avoid ear-to-shoulder neck positioning while on the phone.  Use a telephone headset that will allow you to work on the computer with good posture while on the phone.
  • Rearrange the work area to avoid excess bending, stooping, and reaching.
  • Try to relax. Many injuries and painful episodes arise from continuously tensing your neck and shoulder muscles while working.


A good chair can contribute significantly to reducing the risk of lower back pain or injury. A good ergonomic chair includes all or most of the following characteristics, not just one or two:

  • Adjustable lumbar support that maintains the natural “S” curvature of the spine
  • Angle between the backrest and seat that allows you to sit without leaning forward uncomfortably
  • Adjustable armrests
  • Slightly inclined backrest
  • Allows for a variety of seated postures
  • Seat height adjustability
  • Seat pan depth adjustability
  • Soft, rounded edges
  • Size that fits you
  • High backrest or headrest for deeply reclining postures
  • Comfortable but slip-resistant fabric
  • Casters that are appropriate for the floor surface

If your feet don’t reach the floor, consider using a footrest. In addition, if you have an older chair without lumbar support, try using a small pillow or towel roll to relieve pressure on your lower back.

Also, remember that ergonomic features won’t help you if the chair doesn’t suit your body or sitting habits, so adjustability is important. Be sure to have the adjustable features of your chair explained to you to ensure the best fit.


As with musculoskeletal disorders, one of the best ways to avoid back, neck, and shoulder injuries is to minimize sustained exertions. The following tips should help you:

  • Alternate tasks. If possible, get up from your workstation periodically to use the phone, make copies, file paperwork, etc.
  • Take several rest breaks. For many people, “microbreaks” that allow you to pause frequently are more effective than the traditional 15-minute break every two hours.
  • Take short breaks that involve active exercise (walking, stretching); they are often the most effective in relieving stress on the back, neck, and shoulders.


A frequent physical complaint by people who spend a lot of time in front of a monitor is eyestrain. Specialists in ergonomics have identified several problem areas and possible corrections for eyestrain, including:


  • Move or shield the light source.
  • Move the monitor.
  • Change the monitor’s angle.
  • Apply a good quality glare filter to the monitor.
  • When correcting for glare, don’t create other problems. For instance, if you move your monitor, don’t put it in a place that will produce neck strain. The monitor should be directly in front of you.
  • When possible, place your monitor at a right angle with the window.

Lighting Levels

  • Following the preceding recommendations, adjust your screen position and lighting sources (lamps, etc.) to achieve best results.
  • Work with a light screen background (dark type or images on white or pale background)—you will find it is easier on your eyes.
  • Rest the muscles of your eyes by focusing on a distant object, away from your monitor,  occasionally.
  • When using a laptop, look into the distance more frequently. A laptop monitor will probably not have the best placement, since it is attached to the keyboard.
  • If you are using a laptop at your primary workstation, a docking station with an external keyboard and mouse should be used.  An external monitor, or display, should also be considered.

Readability of Screen and Document

  • Place monitors directly in front of you and documents to the immediate right or left, at the same distance.
  • Upgrade or replace monitors with poor resolution or flicker.
  • Adjust your monitor’s font size or (if appropropriate).
  • If you wear glasses, consider getting full-frame reading glasses prescribed for the working distance of your monitor (typically, 15 to 30 inches/ 38 to 76 cm). These will allow you to place the monitor correctly and see well without stressing your posture.
  • Place the monitor so that the top of the screen is at your line of sight.  If you wear bifocals the top of the screen should be slightly below your line of sight.
  • Don’t skip visits to the eye doctor. Eyestrain could indicate a problem with your vision beyond the use of a computer monitor.

via An Ergonomics Approach to Avoiding Office Workplace Injuries and Illnesses.

Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace

bad ergo 2Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves and tendons. Work related MSDs (including those of the neck, upper extremities and low back) are one of the leading causes of lost workday injury and illness. Workers in many different industries and occupations can be exposed to risk factors at work, such as lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures and performing the same or similar tasks repetitively. Exposure to these known risk factors for MSDs increases a worker’s risk of injury.

But work-related MSDs can be prevented. Ergonomics — fitting a job to a person — helps lessen muscle fatigue, increases productivity and reduces the number and severity of work-related MSDs.

Work related MSDs are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.

  • In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that industries with the highest MSD* rates include health care, transportation and warehousing, retail and wholesale trade and construction.
  • According to BLS, the 387,820 MSD cases accounted for 33% of all worker injury and illness cases in 2011.

via Safety and Health Topics | Ergonomics.

Back Injuries

lumbar-injury-1Your back is made of bones, muscles, and other tissues extending from your neck to your pelvis. Back injuries can result from sports injuries, work around the house or in the garden, or a sudden jolt such as a car accident. The lower back is the most common site of back injuries and back pain. Common back injuries include:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Herniated disks
  • Fractured vertebrae

These injuries can cause pain and limit your movement. Treatments vary but might include medicines, icing, bed rest, physical therapy, or surgery. You might be able to prevent some back injuries by maintaining a healthy weight, lifting objects with your legs, and using lower-back support when you sit.

via Back Injuries: MedlinePlus.

How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

498-expert-q-and-a-yoga-and-carpal-tunnel-syndromeIf you spend a lot of time doing activities that involve forceful or repetitive hand or wrist movement or use of vibrating equipment, you have an increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. These activities can include driving, working with small instruments, knitting, or using a sander. You can reduce your risk-and any hand pain or weakness you may already have-by taking a few simple steps.

Key points

  • Many health conditions and diseases make you more likely to get carpal tunnel symptoms. But if you exercise, stay at a healthy weight, control other health conditions such as arthritis and diabetes, and avoid smoking, you can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Arranging your activity and work space using ergonomic guidelines can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Office ergonomics focuses on how a workstation is set up, including the placement of your desk, computer monitor, paperwork, chair, and associated tools, such as a computer keyboard and mouse. The same ideas can help you arrange your position for other daily activities.
  • Proper body mechanics are key to preventing carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Evaluate your daily routine for activities that increase your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Take frequent breaks from activities to rest, stretch, change positions, or alternate with another activity.

via How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Building the Business Case for Behavioral Safety

toggle-switch-to-safety-277x300How do you sell a behavioral safety program to management? Keep these few pointers in mind.

  • Partner with someone in Accounting or Finance to build the financial case for implementing a behavioral safety program. Use the terminology of investment.
  • Stress behavioral safety is an investment, not a cost. Show how the commitment of resources can earn the company financial returns or gain future benefits or advantages.
  • To help with number two, get current/past cost data on workers’ compensation and follow the ROI guidelines of your organization. Project investment returns by using direct and indirect costs.
  • Stress that behavioral safety helps contribute to fewer lost time incidents and workers’ compensation (WC) claims, lower WC premiums and admin costs, higher employee morale, a better reputation and more.

via DuPont™ STOP™ Behavioral Safety Program.

Avoidable Workplace Health and Safety Hazards

lifting_back_painWhen it comes to non-fatal workplace injuries, the clear leaders are incidents of ergonomic problems and overexertion. They affect people in manufacturing, service, and office settings and regulatory bodies are increasingly cracking down on employers who ignore their employees ergonomic needs. Furthermore, because these injuries can give rise to chronic conditions, they result in one of the higher rates of lost work time.

via 9 Avoidable Workplace Health and Safety Hazards |

Stay Safe at Work

How-to-protect-your-back-at-work-300x214If work isn’t performed safely, it can put a lot of wear and tear on your body. Back injuries are the most common type of workplace injury.

Make simple changes to prevent injuries and stay healthy:

  • Lift things safely.
  • Arrange your equipment to fit your body.
  • Take short breaks and stretch your muscles.
  • Eat a healthy diet and stay active.
  • Watch your weight.
  • Get enough sleep.

via Workplace Safety.

Healthy at Work

corptrainStaying healthy at work makes it easier to do your job. For many people, staying healthy at work begins with proper office space ergonomics — such as correct chair height, proper equipment spacing and good posture.

For others, staying healthy at work means preventing back pain and injury. The best bet? Exercise regularly — even if your job keeps you moving. Better yet, consider ways to include physical activity and gentle stretching in your workday. Strong and flexible muscles help keep your back in shape.

If your job involves travel, staying healthy at work might mean fitting in a workout while you’re away from home.

Staying healthy at work also extends to your mental health and family life. Consider strategies to boost job satisfaction, improve work-life balance and prevent job burnout.

via Adult health: Healthy at work –

Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders

Kester650x349Ergonomics is the scientific study of people at work. The goal of ergonomics is to reduce stress and eliminate injuries and disorders associated with the overuse of muscles, bad posture, and repeated tasks. This is accomplished by designing tasks, work spaces, controls, displays, tools, lighting, and equipment to fit the employee´s physical capabilities and limitations.

via CDC – Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders – NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic.

Aging Workers

aging-manWhat physical changes occur, in general, as a person ages… and how can this affect their work?

Our bodies change as we age. People reach full physical maturity or development at around the age of 25 years. Then after a period of relative stability, our bodies begin to show signs of aging. Most of these changes are first noticed at ages 40 or 50, but changes can occur (or start) as early as 20 or 25. These changes include:

  • Maximum muscular strength and range of joint movement: In general, people lose 15 to 20% of their strength from the ages of 20 to 60. However, every person is different and there is a large range between individuals. However, most jobs do not require a person to use all their strength. Older employees may be able to perform the same tasks as a younger worker, but they may be working closer to their maximum level. The musculoskeletal system weakens over time, resulting in a decreased capacity for load-bearing work. Keep in mind that, for example, highly repetitive motions — doing the same thing, over and over again — can cause physical problems at any age.
  • As we age, the body loses some ‘range of motion’ and flexibility. People may be used to certain range of movements at one task or workstation. Being less flexible or able to reach could cause problems in some unpredictable situations that require unusual movements.
  • Cardiovascular and respiratory systems: The ability of the heart, lungs and circulatory system to carry oxygen decreases. Between the age of 30 and 65, the functional breathing capacity can reduce by 40%. These changes can affect the ability to do extended heavy physical labour, reduce the body’s ability to adjust to hot and cold conditions.
  • Regulation of posture and balance: In general people may find it harder to maintain good posture and balance. When seated or standing still, this may not be a problem. However, accidents that happen because someone loses their balance do happen more often with age. Work that requires precise adjustments, strong muscular effort (including lifting and carrying), joint movements at extreme angles, or those done on a slippery or unstable surface, will be affected by poorer posture. Unexpected bumps or shocks may cause a more serious problem than with a younger worker.
  • Sleep Regulation: As we age, our body is not able to regulate sleep as well as it used to. How long a person sleeps, and how well they sleep, can additionally be disrupted by changing work hours or by light and noise. The impact on employees is especially a concern for older shift or night workers. They might need more recovery time between shifts or extended workdays. Use of shift rotations that are the least disruptive to sleep patterns are preferred.
  • Thermoregulation (Body Temperature): Our bodies are less able to maintain internal temperatures as well as less able to adjust to changes in external temperature or due to physical activity. This change means that older workers may find heat or cold more difficult to deal with than when they were younger. It also means that if they are doing hard manual labour, they may get overheated more easily.
  • Vision: Vision changes with age. We will notice we cannot see or read from certain distances as well as we used to. This reduction in the “amplitude of accommodation” (the ability to see or adjust focus in certain distance ranges) is normally corrected with prescription glasses. Changes also occur in the peripheral visual field (how well you can see in the areas to the side of you, that you’re not directly looking at), visual acuity (how exact, clear, and “unfuzzy” things appear), depth perception (how far away things seem), and resistance to glare, and light transmission. These changes are normally not noticed by a person unless there is poor lighting or there are sources of glare. Someone might also notice that they can’t see as well when they’re reading something when text size is small, or when there is poor contrast between the text and the background. Brighter lighting (that is suitable for the task) and well laid-out documents which avoid small print are important.
  • Auditory (Hearing): Hearing also changes. We may not be able to hear as well at higher frequencies (high pitch sounds). Most often, this change is noticed as the inability to listen to a particular voice or sound in a noisy environment. As well, people who work with a lot of background or noise may have difficulty hearing verbal instructions.

via Aging Workers : OSH Answers.