Work Body Smart: Ergonomics
For many people who spend their day at a desk working at a computer, their work can be literally a “pain in the neck”. In today’s world of ever increasing technology, we have become slaves to our computer. As a result, we spend prolonged periods of time sitting at workstations that often distort the normal posture of our bodies and place our joints in positions of high stress. Work place injuries have become a common cause of lost time from work and cost employers and employees billions of dollars every year.
The science of ergonomics has evolved due to the escalating cost and number of work related injuries. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the employee. Ergonomics has played an important role in the prevention and reduction of work place injuries. Before the debut of ergonomics, workers were forced to sustain often unhealthy positions and activities in the work place. Repetitive stresses and poor postures over time culminated in injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, and chronic neck, arm or lower back pain.
When evaluating the ergonomics of a workstation certain things should be considered in order to reduce the risk of injury:
- Chose a desk that is the proper height. Desks that can be raised and lowered offer the best fit.
- Your feet should always touch the floor with your thighs parallel to the ground or slightly angled The ankles should always be forward of the knees with a 3 finger gap between the back of the knees and the chair’s cushion.
- Maintain proper posture by sitting to the very back of your chair allowing support of the lower back by the chair’s lumbar support. When the lordosis (curvature of the lower back) is properly maintained it becomes more difficult to slouch.
- Adjust the height of your monitor. Your eyes should be at the top of the monitor when looking straight forward.
- When using the keyboard, keep your wrists straight, your forearms parallel to the floor and your shoulders perpendicular to the floor.
- When talking on the phone, never cradle the phone between your shoulder and ear.
- Never sit for periods longer than 20-30 minutes without standing up to stretch or take a short walk.
The ergonomics of how we use our bodies to perform certain tasks is also important to consider in the prevention of back injuries. This is especially important in the prevention of lower back injuries associated with lifting.
- When lifting items from the floor, always keep your back straight and lift with your legs.
- Never bend over at the waist and lift with your lower back.
- When lifting and carrying, especially a heavy item, keep it as close to your body as possible.
By considering these simple suggestions in customizing your workstation and proper mechanics of lifting, you can become more productive in your work and limit your chance of injury.