The modern world is far removed from the hunter-gatherer societies of our ancestors.
They certainly did not have the benefit of office technology, workplace ergonomic tips, or occupational therapists. Indeed, people are more likely to wield a keyboard than an axe or fire off an email instead of an arrow.
Consequently, our workplaces tend to be considerably safer environments than those endured by previous generations. Most people work in comfortable, safe, well-lit offices. However, that doesn’t mean you are free from the risk of injury at work.
Many people working in office environments get musculoskeletal injuries (MSI) also known as ergonomic injuries. This is an injury or disorder of the soft tissues which occur from exposure to risk factors such as bad posture, awkward movements, and repetitive motions. This can include injuries to tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves. A common example you may have heard of before is ‘carpal tunnel syndrome’.
According to Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the largest proportion of lost time in the workplace is due to MSIs. These injuries affect thousands of Canadian office workers and cost companies millions of dollars.
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Ergonomics is the science of design and interaction between people and their surroundings. You should follow proper ergonomic practices to reduce workplace injuries and mitigate the damage they cause to staff and the organization.
As such, proper ergonomics can provide your staff with a comfortable and safer workplace. Considering ergonomics in the short-term can help prevent long-term injury and illness and keep your staff healthier, and more productive overall. Plus, not considering ergonomics can be bad for business!
Here are seven tips to promote proper ergonomics in the workplace
1. Watch Your Posture
Posture is one of the most important things to consider. A good ergonomic setup can help maintain good posture, but it is also up to the individual to learn and adopt good habits when it comes to posture.
You want to aim for a neutral posture and consider the rule of ‘90’ (aim for a 90 degree angle in your hips, elbow, and ankle joints). Here are some other tips for good posture:
- Keep feet flat on the floor or use a footrest
- Thighs horizontal with a 90- 100 degree angle at the hips
- Position your hips to the back of the chair
- Use the chair’s back support to promote the natural curve of the lower back
- Keep your wrists neutral (straight) and in line with your forearms. Keep your elbows bent to 90 degrees.
Maintain your head upright and over your shoulders while having eyes look slightly downward or directly eye level to the screen.
Try to change your posture and position regularly. You can do this by alternating tasks, standing, walking, and taking rest breaks.
2. Use Adjustable Chairs and Furniture
Adjustable chairs and furniture is an excellent way to achieve a proper ergonomic setup and potentially improve productivity. No one size or position will suit all of your staff, so adjustable furniture is crucial for people to achieve an optimal posture. When choosing ergonomic chairs, consider those that offer adjustable lumbar support, heights, seat pan depths, and armrests.
3. Ergonomic Workstation Design
Your workstation’s design is crucial for good posture, reducing strain, and preventing injury. It should be as comfortable as possible and designed so that everything you need is within reaching distance.
Easy access to everything you need is the key to maintaining a good posture at your workstation. Therefore, look for ergonomic desks with accessories such as footrests, document holders, and other posture-enhancing devices.
4. Properly Positioned Equipment
Equipment such as monitors, reading panels, and other displays should be positioned at eye level so you are not constantly adjusting your head and putting strain on your neck. Also, you should change the resolution, text size, contrast, and other display options to view the displayed information without squinting.
The positioning of your mouse and keyboard is also crucial. These devices should be close enough, so you don’t have to stretch or twist your position to operate them. Repeated and prolonged use of these in a poor position could lead to an MSI.
5. Avoid Repetitive Motion
We’ve just mentioned how repeatedly performing a task over a prolonged time can cause injury. Unfortunately, most workplace tasks tend to be repetitive. As such, these are one of the most significant risks for MSIs.
One way to reduce the effect of repetitive tasks is to take a break from them. You can do this by alternating tasks. For instance, take a break from your keyboard with some filing, photocopying, or other non-computer-based activity. Also, take regular breaks, preferably walking or stretching away from your desk.
6. Physical Workspace Environment
The physical environment is the foundation of proper workspace ergonomics, and it should be adjusted to the needs of staff to enable optimal production. Specific workplace environmental standards are essential and legally required. For instance, you must have adequate lighting, limited noise levels, and a comfortable range of temperatures. Failing to provide these could end up with your organization justifying itself to an industrial tribunal.
More importantly, production will suffer if your staff are not provided with these basic environmental requirements. Too much noise around the office can increase stress. The cold can restrict blood flow and hinder coordination, making manipulating a mouse and keyboard more challenging. Also, poor lighting can cause eye strain and potential damage over the long term. Therefore, a suitable workplace environment is crucial to the wellbeing of both the individual and the organization.
7. Take Regular Breaks
One of the most effective workplace ergonomic tips doesn’t involve any design or new equipment. Taking regular breaks from your computer screen will reduce the strain on your eyes. Sufficient breaks don’t mean you have to walk away from your desk. Indeed, you can rest your eyes by following the 20-20-20 rule. Therefore, rest your eyes for twenty seconds every twenty minutes by focusing on an object twenty feet away. You may also want to consider a blue filter to put on your monitor or your computer if looking at it strains your eyes.
Proper Workplace Ergonomics Works
Adopting proper workplace ergonomics will reduce MSIs and other repetitive workplace injuries. It can also improve your business’s bottom line through increased productivity and fewer insurance claims. Moreover, it is a regulatory requirement for an organization to provide certain aspects of basic environmental ergonomics and working conditions.
Today, we are privileged to have made quantum leaps forward compared to the primitive working conditions previous generations had to endure. Also, we now benefit from a greater understanding about MSIs and more options for treating them. Occupational therapy is a crucial aspect of this knowledge and treatment.
Contact our experts today if you want further information about providing proper ergonomics in your organization, an environmental assessment, improving your existing measures, or occupational therapy treatments for MSIs.