Beyond Desk Chairs: Ergonomic Factors For Your Office
Article brought to you by: Phillip Donaldson
Ergonomics is a term that describes the study of the way in which humans interact with other elements around them, and focuses on improving that interaction to maximize efficiency, safety, and comfort. Popular impressions of ergonomics typically include considerations of repetitive strain injury or office chairs with optional lumbar support, but the study of ergonomics has also contributed to improving efficiency within the workplace on a much larger scale, bringing about modifications to industrial controls, flooring and even building layouts.
In order for employees to remain healthy while working, those who sit or stand for long periods of time in the workplace often need to make certain adjustments to their equipment to adapt to their stance. These changes may include altering neck angle by repositioning computer monitors, changing the height of chairs or desktops, or making other changes that will allow the employee to sit or stand with correct posture. These changes can be minor, but often have a combined effect of minimizing health risks that can lead to reduced productivity, or even cause financial liability.
Sitting in office chairs, looking at computers for prolonged periods of time and even driving can cause degenerative changes to the spine. The majority of people do all of those things without regard for the potential consequences of the postures that they maintain. While ergonomic considerations may shape a workplace into a safer and more human-friendly environment, there are voluntary actions that workers may take to improve how they interact with their environment. For instance, maintaining awareness of posture, taking advantage of adjustments in the work space, and taking short breaks during repetitive or prolonged tasks.
The extended use of computers by employees can contribute to headaches, vision changes and other discomfort. These issues are generally attributed to eye strain caused by monitor glare, screen flickering, lighting within the room or reading text which is too small or poorly displayed. Ergonomic changes can be made to employee work environments to reduce the risk of vision issues, such as the installation of computer monitor glare protectors; relocating lights or desks to minimize glare; and adjusting monitor position to be at the right height, with a minimum of 18” of space between the employee’s face and the monitor.
Employees that engage in repetitive motions are at risk for causing stress to joints and body parts. Additionally, bodily motions in the workplace common to manual labor positions can lead to over-extension and strain. Examples of workplace motion injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome and musculoskeletal disorder. Motion injuries can be among the most costly to employers, both in terms of productivity and financial liability. They are often not apparent until damage has already occurred, which makes considerations of motion injury critical to any efforts to incorporate ergonomics principals.