Derived from the Greek ergon (work) and nomos (laws), ergonomics is the scientific study of human capabilities in relationship to work demands. It includes working postures, repetitive movements, work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs), workplace layout, safety, and health.
- WMSDs account for around 34 percent of all lost-workday injuries and illnesses.
- On average, it takes 28 days to recover from carpal tunnel syndrome, longer than the time needed to recover from amputation or fractures.
- All work activities should allow the worker to adopt multiple different, but equally healthy and safe postures.
- When needed, a person should exert the muscular force by the largest appropriate muscle groups available.
- Joints in the head, trunk, and upper limbs should be made to work at about mid-point of their range of movement.
Tips to sit properly at your workstations
- Sit with the body close to the desk.
- Head and neck should be in the midline position (i.e. no backward arching of the neck or forward extension of the chin).
- Shoulders should be relaxed and symmetrical and elbows should be kept slightly closer to the side of the body.
- Elbows should be at right angles or more preferred keying posture, depending on the style of keyboard used.
- Back should be supported to the chair backrest. The curved lower part of the backrest should fit into the lower back or the lumbar spine curve.
- Hips should be at an open angle of 100-120 degrees (slightly more than a right angle) at the hip. This is possible by adjusting the seat pan tilt and the backrest.
- Knees should be at a height lower or in level with the hips. There should be at least 3 finger gaps between the back of the knee joint and seat pad when feet flat on the floor.
Tips to improve lighting and minimizing glare
Good lighting allows users to view the screen and document easily without using awkward postures or straining the eyes from glare, shadowing or reflections on the screen. Check lighting levels and lighting distractions at various times throughout hours of operation.
Glare may be experienced by light shining directly into the eyes or reflected from other surfaces such as the screen, desktop or walls. This can cause eye fatigue and headaches.
Methods to avoid glare
- Place the computer workstation so that your line of sight is parallel to the window.
- Prefer to locate computer workstations between rows of overhead lights.
- Restrict natural light from the windows e.g. use Venetian blinds.
- Ensure all work surfaces and office fittings have non-reflective surfaces.
- Position the angle of the screen so that it is 90 degrees (a right angle) to the work surface avoid tilting the screen towards the ceiling.
- Adjust brightness and contrast on the monitor.
- Light-coloured background on the monitor is preferable.
Work – related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs)
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) are a group of painful disorders of muscles, tendons, and nerves. Carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, thoracic outlet syndrome, and tension neck syndrome are a few examples. Almost all work requires the use of the arms and hands. Therefore, most WMSD affect the hands, wrists, elbows, neck, and shoulders. Work using the legs can lead to WMSD of the legs, hips, ankles, and feet. Some back problems also result from repetitive activities.
Risk factors for WMSD
• Fixed or constrained body positions.
• Continual repetition of movements.
• Force concentrated on small parts of the body, such as the hand or wrist.
• A pace of work that does not allow sufficient recovery between movements.
Symptoms of WMSDs
Pain is the most common symptom associated with WMSDs. In some cases, there may be joint stiffness, muscle tightness, redness and swelling of the affected area. Some workers may also experience sensations of “pins and needles,” numbness, skin colour changes, and decreased sweating of the hands.
Treatment of WMSDs
• Restriction of movement
• Application of heat or cold packs
• Medication and surgery
Prevention of WMSDs
• Implementation of workplace ergonomics
• Healthy habits
• Regular stretching & strengthening exercises
DID YOU KNOW?
According to research studies, standing desks – which a person can raise or lower to stand or sit while working – may boost productivity in employees and improve their health.
- Centers for Disease control and Prevention. Accessed on May 25, 2016.
- UCLA Ergonomics. Accessed on March 10, 2016.
- AFSCME, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Accessed on March 10, 2016.
- Ergonomics Plus. Accessed on March 23, 2016.