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Workplace Ergonomics: Well Workers Are Productive Workers

A typical office worker might spend the whole day seated in a chair, staring at a screen, continually typing and clicking a mouse. Lack of movement variety, incorrect posture, or poor workspace setup could lead to injury.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration website, “Work related MSDs [musculoskeletal disorders] (including those of the neck, upper extremities, and low back) are one of the leading causes of lost workday injuries and illness.” Repetitive tasks could lead to the development of MSDs, as can “[w]orking in awkward postures or being in the same position for long periods of time.”

MSDs and repetitive strain injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or eye strain, can result in lost productivity—and disability claims.

It’s important for organizations to be proactive about assessing workspaces to identify hazards and come up with solutions.

Avoid repetitive strain

Because so many workers now spend their days seated in front of a computer, it’s important that they understand the different ways in which repetitive strain can be avoided:

  • Position the keyboard and mouse so that hands are level with elbows
  • Adjust chair height so that knees and hips are at a 90 degree or greater angle and keep feet flat on the floor
  • Position the monitor so it is arm’s length away and at or below eye level
  • Take small breaks periodically, standing up to stretch every 20 minutes
  • Use products such as keyboard trays and adjustable office chairs developed specifically for longtime use

There are several ergonomic products, such as phone headsets and wireless mice operated by thumb rather than wrist movement, which can ease the strain of repetitive movements.

Employers’ roles

The burden of preventing MSDs shouldn’t fall solely on employees; there also must be support from management.

Some guidelines to help management change the environment to adapt to the worker, rather than requiring the worker to try to adapt to the environment, include:

  • Training employees to recognize symptoms of strain and taking necessary steps to alleviate its effects
  • Encouraging rest breaks
  • Asking employees to report comfort issues to supervisors—and asking supervisors to follow up on solving the problems
  • Allowing employees to complete some tasks while sitting and others while standing
  • Providing ergonomic equipment

The cost of ergonomic equipment will be much less than the cost of claims that come from repetitive strain injuries or MSDs.

Concern for workers’ wellbeing goes a long way toward creating a workplace where everyone is able to do their best work. If employees and management work together on workplace ergonomics, it decreases the chances of injury and disability.

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