Ergonomics is concerned with ‘fitting’ the right equipment with the worker. This puts the person first, taking into account their capabilities and limitations. A range of factors have to be considered, one is the job being done. This includes the workload of the worker, the activities, shift work patterns, fatigue and the equipment used. The environment must be taken into account, for example, the noise levels, humidity and temperature. There is also the individual’s physical and psychological characters, like body size, mental ability, training and experience. The social environment is also an important factor and includes teamwork, supervision and resources. Ergonomics is a very broad subject and will have differing applications within different industries, however the office environment is a common work layout that most of us will have experience of. Making the office ergonomically friendly will reduce the potential for accidents and improve performance and productivity.
If not working comfortably, office workers can suffer a number of ailments. These can include upper limb disorders (ULDs), eyestrain, fatigue and stress. Employers have an obligation to check that the office work stations are suitably set up and that relevant training is given to the workers. Employers have legal duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992.
Sitting at a properly set up work station will ensure that neutral body posture is attained and that joints are naturally aligned. Whilst office work hazards’ are low risk they can result in ill health for the worker. These include bad postural problems. This can result from prolonged static postures and working in awkward situations due to bad workstation set up. Upper limb disorders may occur when one is constantly working for long hours on the keyboard and using non-keyboard devices where there is repetitive hand / wrist movements. ULDs refer to the region extending from the fingers to the shoulders and into the neck. It includes the muscles and soft tissues of these areas. Symptoms can include pain, tingling, numbness, back and neck pain. There can occur visual fatigue to the eyes due to glare, flickering screens, poor lightening or poor positioning of the PC.
Being ergonomically friendly in the work place:
- Computer screen. The top of the screen should be at the workers eye level. It should be at arms’ length and aligned with the trunk of the body
- Keyboard. It should be positioned at elbow level
- Chair. Should allow smooth movement and be adjustable
- Work space. There must be adequate leg clearance and the surface must be non-reflective
- Telephone. If frequently used, a hands free headset should be used
- Lighting. Adequate lighting should be provided to prevent eyestrain and glare
- Temperature. Should be between 19 – 23ºC
- Noise. Should be kept low to prevent hearing loss and stress
- Humidity. Humidity and airflow should be kept at comfortable levels
- Laptops. A computer monitor pedestal may be used. The screen should be seen without bending the neck
- Get up. Don’t sit for too long periods, walk around the work place
- Do something different. Perform different tasks like filling
- Working posture. One should periodically change their working posture by making small changes to the headrest
- Move. One should stretch their fingers and blink their eyes and concentrate on looking at objects away from the screen for short period of time, for example, looking out the window or talking to an office colleague