The Basics of Ergonomics at Work

 

Working through pain can cause serious injuries, potentially leaving you permanently partially or fully disabled. Even though sitting at a desk isn’t considered a high-risk situation for injury, small aches and pains can add up to cause more severe problems. That’s why it’s important to practice good ergonomics, which is the study of how you perform daily work tasks and correcting any trouble spots before any aches and pains due to repetitive motion, awkward postures or poor lifting techniques set in.

Muscles require periodic rest. One of the best ways to prevent injury is to take regular breaks from repetitive tasks

Results of Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders can develop suddenly or over time, causing pain and resulting in lost time and pay at work. The most common pains come from strains in the neck, lower back, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands and eyes due to one or more of four primary risk factors: awkward postures, excessive force, repetitive motion or contact stress. The way employees lift and move their bodies is a major contributing factor in various disorders.

ergonomics

About Your Workstation

The way your workstation is set up may determine your risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder over time. Improper positioning in your workstation can cause various disorders due to reaching or straining unnecessarily. If you are regularly bending or twisting to do common tasks, your risk of developing a disorder is much higher. Static work in poor postures can have negative effects, too. However, if you follow several basic guidelines, you can prevent pain and injury. Ergonomics at work can significantly reduce your risks of serious injuries, potentially leaving you permanently partially or fully disabled.

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Download our Workstation Ergonomics Checklist!

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Tips to improve comfort and ergonomics at work

Sitting at a computer for the majority of your workday can negatively affect your health if your workstation isn’t properly adjusted. Follow these suggestions to make your workstation work for you.

How to Adjust Your Desk Chair

  • Adjust the seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are equal to—or slightly lower than—your hips.
  • Adjust your armrests so that your shoulders are down and relaxed. If your armrests are in the way, remove them.
  • Sit in the chair with your hips positioned as far back as possible. Use a footrest if your feet don’t touch the floor.

Where Should My Monitor Placement Be?

Placing your monitor in an appropriate position helps prevent excessive fatigue, eyestrain, and neck or back pain.

  • Center and position the top of the monitor approximately 2 to 3 inches above seated eye level.
  • Sit at least an arm’s length away from the screen, making adjustments to suit your vision.
  • You can reduce glare by positioning your screen away from windows, adjusting blinds or using a filter.
  • Position source documents directly in front of you, between the monitor and the keyboard, using a copy stand.

How To Setup Your Keyboard and Mouse For Office Ergonomics

If your keyboard and mouse are not adjusted properly, it can lead to discomfort in your wrists, arms and shoulders.

  • Place the keyboard directly in front of you at a distance that allows your elbows to stay close to your body and your forearms approximately parallel with the floor.
  • Use the keyboard feet to adjust the tilt of your keyboard. If you sit in a forward or upright position, try tilting your keyboard away from you at a negative angle. If you are reclined, a slight positive tilt will help maintain a straight wrist position.
  • A wrist rest can help you to maintain neutral postures and pad hard surfaces, but resting on it while typing is not recommended.

Why It Is Important To Take a Break

Regardless of how well your workstation is set up, sitting still and working in the same posture for prolonged periods is not healthy. Try to change your working position frequently throughout the day.

  • Take a break or change tasks for at least 5 to 10 minutes after each hour of work. Try to get away from your desk during lunch breaks.
  • Avoid eye fatigue by resting and refocusing your eyes periodically.
  • Make small adjustments to your chair or backrest.

Warming Up Before Work

Moving the body in ways it is not ready to move and using muscle groups that haven’t been warmed up for work can be a major cause of pain. There is a real value in practicing basic stretching exercises for our hands, wrists, back and neck to prepare our bodies for work. Begin with your hands and wrists, stretching them thoroughly for the movements typically made at work. Stretch your neck gently from side to side and then from front to back. Stretch your back while sitting in a chair by bending your chin toward your knees.

Important Lifting Methods

When lifting, first take a good look at the load. If it is too awkward, too big or too heavy, ask for help. Lifting an item that is too big, simply because you are unwilling to ask for assistance, can result in unnecessary pain and lost wages.

Second, lift with your legs, not with your back. Your legs are your biggest muscles and are able to lift heavier objects. With a straight back, keep weights at shoulder level. Avoid bending at your waist, which can strain your back.

Third, avoid lifting and twisting in the same motion. Your first goal is to get the object off the ground. Once your legs are straight, you can move your legs instead of twisting your back.

Back belts do not allow you to lift more weight. Don’t ignore proper lifting principles. The only way to effectively prevent back injury is to follow the correct lifting procedure, with or without a back belt.

Get Involved

If you have any questions regarding ergonomics or your work area, let your manager know.

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