Most people expect that the injuries and pain they are experiencing are as a result of a major accident or injury, commonly called macro-trauma. More often than not though, people cannot remember any significant event and report that they were simply, “cleaning their teeth”, or “doing what they do every day”. They forget that the same repetitive activities performed over and over again will slowly wear away at the body until the point of failure and finally
Articles in Category: Ergonomics
Work Station Ergonomics Part 3
By Don Williams
In this month’s instalment of workstation ergonomics we will look at some of the other peripheral issues which effect people at their workstations.
For workers who only use the phone sporadically throughout the day, it is not really an issue, however, for receptionists, telemarketers and other professions where long periods of time are spent on the phone it is imperative that more effective methods of use are employed than simply holding the handpiece in between the shoulders and the ear. Even though this frees up the hands to type and throw items around the office, it is terrible for the neck and shoulders and can lead to neck pain, headaches and pins and needles in the arms and hands.
Headsets allow the operator to have their hands free to do tasks other than holding the phone-piece. These items can be expensive so selecting the right one the first time is essential. From an ergonomic point of view, there are two main types. These are:
1. Ear-piece type
Advantage for type 1: Easily attached with one hand.
Disadvantage for type 1: Can be uncomfortable for some operators.
2. Headband type
Advantage for type 2: More comfortable than Ear-piece type.
Disadvantage for type 2: Difficult to attach with one hand.
Can, due to the pressure on the side over a period of time, mess up your hair.
Telephone headset should have a peak impulse noise regulator as a minimum requirement to prevent hearing damage.
Alternatively a hands free phone can be used, however this may affect the comfort and concentration of staff around you and is most suited to single offices, where privacy can be maintained.
Luckily there are many inexpensive options available at stationary and computer stores and many modern phone systems have specific devices available to suit.
With the increase in prevalence and use of mobile phones in the office and for rep staff, use of blue tooth headsets can not only save the neck but also ease financial strain from fines issued for using the mobile whilst driving!!
We often a workstation and find that the desk, chair, monitor and keyboard are all fine, however, the person spends their day turning their head to the left and looking down at documents. Consider a document holder which brings the items up to eye level. Items that are used regularly should be within a comfortable arm reach, items less used can be stored in the draw or further away. Ensure that there isn’t a whole bunch of boxes under the desk blocking feet and leg space. Also look out for air conditioners blowing directly onto the neck and back, this is a common cause of torticollis or wry neck issues. Lastly, remember the micro break schedule from week 1. If you haven’t got that article, send us an email and we will forward it out.
The eye problems experienced by computer operators may include; sharp and dull pains, dry or watering eyes, burning sensations, tightness, tiredness, headaches, and other forms of discomfort, which can all be called "eyestrain". Pretty much covers the spectrum really.
There is very little evidence to support that using the computer can cause eye damage, it is more likely that using the computer makes the operator realise that they need glasses. The eyestrain that most people suffer from can be as a result of a number of factors, and in the vast majority of cases, it is only a temporary situation. The discomfort will subside once the cause of the eye strain corrected. Causes of eyestrain are listed below.
Caused by overhead lights and lamps shining directly into your eyes. Direct glare can also be a problem when a computer is positioned directly in front of a window. To find out whether direct glare is a problem, temporarily shield the light source and you will immediately notice the difference.
Indirect or Reflected Glare:
Caused by light deflecting off surfaces and into your eyes. Objects and walls in glossy dark colours or shiny metal surfaces even as small as your watch face can cause this. Indirect glare is unlikely do you any permanent harm, but can certainly be very annoying. Light reflected off the computer monitor is also unlikely to cause eyestrain, however it may make you assume an inappropriate posture in order to see the screen. The same method of determining if indirect glare is a problem applies as mentioned above.
Generally speaking, bifocal glasses are not optimal for computer work. If you wear bifocal glasses, you may find that you are tilting your head tilted backward in order to see the screen. This places strain on the neck and shoulders and should be avoided. Bifocals are designed for reading, not computer work and you should see your optometrist about options available to you. In the short term you can place the monitor directly onto the table surface so you are looking down without pushing your head backward to see the screen.
This concludes our series on workstation ergonomics and posture. I hope this has been a useful and informative tool and everyone has been putting these steps into place. Next month we will start a series on basic postural exercises, activities and lifting mechanics.
By Don Williams
In this article we will introduce some of the basic essentials of posture and how to avoid creating problems when at work.
Historically, we developed as cultural groups who were required to do a variety of different tasks to survive. As a consequence our musculoskeletal system developed to cope with these tasks and really did very well.
However, in modern society, many people have very repetitive jobs or adapt one static position for the whole day, often not realising how long they sit in one position before moving. The classic is computer work. We see a range of common injuries that are directly related to static positions and postures.
There are essentially 2 reasons that people get issues with static positions at work, the first one is obvious, poor posture. The second issue is a little more insidious and relates to the way our muscles, ligaments and tendons are constructed. When these structures are loaded for a longer period of time, which is unfortunately only 15-20 minutes, the elements go through phenomenon called visco-elastic creep, where the structures stretch out and are not maintaining their original state. When the pressure is release, you sit up straight again, it takes 2 minutes to recover half the pliability, however, it takes a further 4 hours before the structure fully returns to the pre-stretched state. What this means to office workers is, that if you sit down at 9 am and slouch for half an hour, it will be almost 1.30 before the body has recovered from this slouch. This effectively creates a degree of instability, or loss of control of the joints.
This phenomenon is partly the reason why people will often report that they, “weren’t doing anything, I just turned around and my back/neck went”.
A really simply solution to address this and start to improve your posture is to set a meeting reminder or alarm on your computer or smartphone which goes off every 15 minutes to remind you to get up and move. Using a “Microbreak Routine” can significantly reduce the neck and upper back stiffness often associated with seated postures and will in fact make you feel more awake and increase productivity! When you fall into a slouching position it restricts breathing, which increases fatigue. The following are 2 simply exercise to try during your micro break.
General Stretch regime
During the “Micro-break”, try doing a very simply stretch routine. Stand up tall, rotate all the way to the left, then to the right, bend all the way to the left, then to the right (stretch the arms out overhead as you go), slowly reach down to touch the toes then slowly reach backwards arm high over the head, take 2 deep breaths then sit down again in good posture.
Perch on edge of chair, spread and externally rotate legs (turn feet out), lift chest, tuck chin in, sit tall, look straight ahead, push the tip of tongue into the roof of the mouth, 1 finger width behind teeth, (rotate out) your arms & hands (so the thumb is pointing behind you) as you exhale actively, press toes down with inhalation and raise toes up with exhalation repeat 3-4 X.
When looking at posture, it is a great idea to analyse everything you do on a day to day basis and understand just how often you deviate from an optimal postural position.
When viewed from the side and standing comfortably, a “plumb” line should pass directly through the ears, shoulders and hips. When standing, this should also pass through the knee caps and ankles. Be careful not to roll the shoulders forward (elbows winging), poke the chin out or let the chest sink towards the floor. Don’t try to pull the shoulders back, instead focus on sitting or standing tall, as if you are trying to touch the ceiling with the top of your head, thumbs pointing forwards. GENTLY stare at the horizon and tuck the chin in.
This month, try integrating “Micro-breaks” into your work routine and try to use the neutral spine position when sitting or standing at work.
Brugger Position Neutral Spine -