How to Avoid Poor Workplace Ergonomics!
Dr. Steven Scappaticci, B.Sc. (Hons.), CSCS, DC
In the last century, our society has moved from an industrial setting with physical labor jobs involving variable work settings to post-industrialization with stationary jobs and more sedentary lifestyles. It is not uncommon for most people to get up out of bed, drive to work, sit for 8 hours, come home to relax on the couch, go to bed, then repeat.
Nutrition and exercise aside, the focus of this post is to focus on what can be done at work to prevent you or someone you know from developing musculoskeletal (MSK) pain due to the time spent in your work environment. You may spend 8 hours (or more) at your desk, which equates to approximately 2,000 hours a year at your desk, or the equivalent of 83 days!
So here’s what you need to know!
With proper office posture and workspace setup, someone can work for many years without any major residual effects. However, when office posture or workspace design are compromised, many MSK injuries can arise.
Some even say that there are 3 stages of ergonomic work-related MSK injuries. These 3 stages are as follows.
Stage 1 - mild discomfort, present while working, but disappears when not working.
Stage 2 - involves pain being present while working and continues when not working but is REVERSIBLE with care.
Stage 3 - pain is present all the time and work is affected. Injury is not likely reversible but can improve (but not to a full recovery).
The image above depicts the “ideal” posture while sitting in a chair. It should be noted that there is no posture that is ideal indefinitely. It is advised that you change your position and posture frequently by adjusting the position on the chair and alternating tasks.
Height - Highest point of seat just below kneecap; Feet should rest firmly on the floor; Distribute weight evenly
Back Support - Lumbar pad should support natural lordosis
Seat Tilt - 5 degrees is recommended
Depth - Use the back support without your knees touching the seat
Width - Shouldn’t apply pressure to your thighs
Armrests - Should be adjusted to elbow height
The image above shows that the further things are from you on your desk, the less frequently they will be used. The top of your work surface should be at your elbow height. One many need to raise their chair to get to this level. A keyboard tray can be used to bring the keyboard and mouse to elbow height. It is suggested that one should arrange work materials in a semicircle shape.
Keyboard - Make sure it is in a neutral position to reduce MSK injuries.
Mouse - Same level as the keyboard; Helpful if you switch the side of the keyboard its on
DISTANCE - 60-90 cm away (farthest away as possible)
HEIGHT & LOCATION - Just below eye level, tilted 15 degrees
Lighting & Glare - 300-500 Lux, Test for Glare, Take regular eye breaks
The image above highlights the appropriate set up of your computer monitor. If you wear bifocals, the monitor should be set even lower. Most offices lighting are set to 1,000 lux. To test for glare, turn off your monitor. If the screen provides reflections, you have glare! Workers should get into the habit of taking your eyes off the screen every few minutes and focusing on something far away. You can also move your eyes up and down, and side-to-side without moving your head. This will help to decrease eye strain.
Palm Rest/Support - Keeps wrist in neutral position BUT only use while resting or for short breaks.
Phone - Use a Headset/Speakerphone
Computer and Desk Stretches
Below are stretches that workers can do every hour. It is also suggested that workers get up and walk around the office whenever they can.
Office ergonomics – Guidelines for preventing musculoskeletal injuries. (2010). Workplace NB. http://www.worksafenb.ca/docs/officeedist.pdf