Computer Ergonomics

Ever wonders how can set up your workstation to protect your body? Here is how.



Previously we covered how to Protect Your Eyes When Using a Computer.

A study earlier last year from the American Academy of Optometry found that working for just two hours on a laptop caused a significant increase in eye pain and vision problems. So even though 70 percent of people surveyed by the Vision Council refused to admit that their screen time might be messing with their eyes, those of us who spend 8-plus hour workdays in front of computers, or who catch up on our reading on tablets, or who are constantly checking our email on smartphones, have got to be feeling the strain.

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According to the National Health Service (NHS) nearly eight million working days are lost each year because of back pain or other MSDs (Musculoskeletal Disorders).

For small business owners creating a safe working environment not only ensures they comply with health and safety regulations, but can also result in an efficiency boost right across their businesses.

Ergonomics is the study of how people use their environment. In a business context this usually means how each component of their offices is set up. A good example where ergonomics can be used to great effect is reducing the instances of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) that can be highly debilitating.

As one of the most common components of an office environment is the computer workstation, ensuring these are set up correctly is vital to avoid RSI and more serious MSDs. Follow these steps to create the perfect ergonomic workstation:

  • Sit so your head and neck are upright and in-line with your torso, not bent down or tilted back.
  • Face your computer screen directly. Avoid viewing your screen with your head turned or your back twisted.
  • Keep your arms and elbows relaxed and comfortably close to your body.
  • Forearms should be supported and your shoulders relaxed at all times. Your chair should have adequate armrests to allow you freedom when you are typing, but give you a place to rest your arms when you are not. This is important as it avoids hunching your back and shoulders that can lead to painful supper torso conditions.
  • Use a good chair with a dynamic chair back and sit back in this. That provides support for your lower and middle back and has a cushioned seat with a contoured front edge.
  • The monitor should be at a comfortable reading distance and height. The viewing distance should be within 16″ to 29″ (40cm-74cm) – arms length from monitor. The monitor height should allow the neck to be in a neutral position when looking at the top row of text on the screen. If you wear varifocal lenses the screen may need to be altered to accommodate this.
  • Position your computer display so the top of the screen is at or slightly below eye level 2-3″ (5-8 cm). This will allow you to view the screen without bending your neck.
  • Keep your mouse close to your keyboard so you don’t have to reach for it.
  • Use an anti-glare filter on your monitor, to help prevent glare and reflection from lights in the room.
  • Put your monitor close enough to your eyes so you can comfortably read text on the screen without leaning forward.
  • Centre monitor and keyboard in front of you.
  • When working with print documents, use a document holder that positions them at the same height and distance as your computer screen.
  • Use a hands-free headset when talking on the phone while working at your computer.
  • Use a footrest to support your feet or feet on floor. Your chair’s height should be adjusted so you can place your feet flat on the floor. If you can’t do this, invest in a footrest. You’ll be surprised at how comfortable your writing position suddenly becomes.
  • Take regular breaks.Take what they call a “20-20-20 break”: Every 20 minutes, give yourself 20 seconds to check out what’s going on 20 feet away from you. Otherwise every 2 hours of looking at the computer screen, you should take at least a 15 minute break. During this time you should blink, close your eyes, and allow them to rest and re-lubricate.
  • Your wrists must be flat and straight in relation to forearms to use keyboard/mouse/input device.

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Ergonomic design

Choosing the right peripherals and accessories that offer high levels of ergonomic design is now vital.

Mouse

A well-designed mouse should not cause undue pressure on the wrist and forearm muscles. A large bulky mouse may keep the wrist continuously bent at an uncomfortable angle. Pressure can be reduced by releasing the mouse at frequent intervals and by selecting a slim-line, low-profile mouse. Keep the mouse as close as possible to the keyboard, elbow bent and close to the body.

Keyboards

Place the keyboard in a position that allows the forearms to be close to the horizontal and the wrists to be straight. That is, with the hand in line with the forearm. If this causes the elbows to be held far out from the side of the body then re-check the work surface height. Some people prefer to have their wrists supported on a wrist rest or the desk. Be careful not to have the wrist extended or bent in an up position.

Monitors

Set the eye-to-screen distance at the distance that permits you to most easily focus on the screen. Usually this will be within an arm’s length. Set the height of the monitor so that the top of the screen is below eye level and the bottom of the screen can be read without a marked inclination of the head. Usually this means that the centre of the screen will need to be near shoulder height. Your eyes should be level with the tool bar. People who wear bifocal or multi-focal lenses will need to get a balance between where they see out of their lenses and avoid too much neck flexing. The height of the monitor can be adjusted using a monitor riser.

Laptops

As more of us use laptops it s important to think about position with them too Ergonomics also goes much further than the peripherals or accessories that a typical workstation would use. Choosing the right desk and lighting are also important. Today there is a range of desk options including standing up desks that have proven to be beneficial to health, and LED task lighting including the award winning Horizon from Humanscale that also have a range of highly adjustable chairs to suit every need.

Phones

Avoid cradling the phone between your head and shoulder when answering calls. If you need to use your computer at the same time, use a headset or the phone’s hands-free/speaker-phone capabilities if the environment is suitable.

Please leave your comments below with your thoughts or suggestions.

Nik

Experienced IT Consultant working and living in the UK. In early years he was born and raised up in Greece and been to the UK since studies. He is passionate with technology, gadgets and computers, he really likes the internet and IT in general.

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