What Are Good Ergonomics?
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to employee capabilities. An ergonomic assessment of the workplace critically appraises the physical work environment—followed by changes based on the assessment. Ergonomic principles are then used to make the workplace compatible with the employee, improving the employee’s safety and productivity. In other words, the easier it is to do a job, the more productive and happy the worker will be.
When considering the impact of proper ergonomics on workplace safety, three basic principles are especially important:
- When lifting, the largest muscles in the area should perform the task. The larger the muscle or muscle group used for lifting, the lower the stress placed on smaller, more vulnerable muscles.
- During any work activities, people should be able to comfortably assume a number of different postures and not remain in one position for an extended time. Muscles will fatigue and be more prone to injury when assuming a particular posture, especially a poor one (e.g., partially bent forward at the waist).
- When performing tasks, it is important to keep the joints either in their neutral posture or approximately halfway into the range of motion. Working with your joints at the extremes of their ranges of motion for prolonged periods places abnormal stresses on them and can cause repetitive stress injuries.
When working at a desk, try these suggestions for greater comfort:
- Choose a desk that is the proper height. All things on your desk should be within easy reach.
- Your feet should be touching the floor, with the legs and body forming an angle of 90 to 110 degrees.
- Keep your body straight with the head and neck upright and looking forward, not to the side. Do not hunch over or slouch.
- Adjust the height of your monitor. Look forward with your head in a neutral position. Your eyes should be at the same height as the top of the monitor. Leaning your head forward can lead to headaches and neck pain.
- When typing, keep your wrists straight, your shoulders perpendicular to the floor, and your forearms parallel to the floor.
- When reading at your desk, use a bookstand or a paper holder to keep your eyes in the same neutral position you use to read documents on your computer monitor.
- When talking on the phone, use a headset, when possible, especially if you talk on the phone for prolonged periods. Holding the phone between your shoulder and cheek will only lead to neck pain and headaches.
- Stand up and stretch your legs with a short walk about every 20 to 30 minutes.
- Take micro-breaks often, stretching your neck, arms and wrists, back, and legs. Simple stretches include neck rotations, fist clenches, arm dangles, and shoulder shrugs.
- If your eyes concentrate on a particular object for long periods, relax your eye muscles by shifting your focus from objects that are close to you to objects that are farther away. This helps reduce eye strain.
When lifting, follow these simple suggestions:
When lifting from the floor, keep your back straightand lift with the legs. Do not bend over at the waist and lift with the muscles of the low back. Your body is more easily injured in this position. Keep the object being lifted close to your body. Keep your elbows flexed. Keep your head up and your neck straight as you lift.
When working with a computer mouse, try the following:
Don’t move the mouse with just your wrist. Use your entire arm and shoulder. Don’t rest your arm on the edge of the desk while manipulating the mouse. Hold the mouse loosely. Keep your wrist relaxed. Don’t hold it up or down; instead, hold it in a neutral (straight) position Move away from the mouse several times per hour and move your wrists, arms, and shoulders around.
Advice For Parents:
Children Need to Practice Good Computer Ergonomics, Too
At least 70 percent of America’s 30 million elementary school students use computers, according to a recent New York Times article. As a result of this increased usage, doctors of chiropractic are treating more young patients suffering from the effects of working at computer stations that are either designed for adults or poorly designed for children. Many children are already suffering from repetitive motion injuries (RMI) such as carpal tunnel syndrome and chronic pain in the hands, back, neck and shoulders.
A recently published study conducted by a team of researchers from Cornell University found that 40 percent of the elementary school children they studied used computer workstations that put them at postural risk. The remaining 60 percent scored in a range indicating “some concern.”
What can you do?
To reduce the possibility of your child suffering painful and possibly disabling injuries, the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) and its Council on Occupational Health offer the following tips:
- If children and adults in your home share the same computer workstation, make certain that the workstation can be modified for each child’s use.
- Position the computer monitor so the top of the screen is at or below the child’s eye level. This can be accomplished by taking the computer off its base or stand, or having the child sit on firm pillows or phone books to reach the desired height.
- Make sure the chair at the workstation fits the child correctly. An ergonomic back cushion, pillow or a rolled-up towel can be placed in the small of the child’s back for added back support. There should be two inches between the front edge of the seat and the back of the knees. The chair should have arm supports so that elbows are resting within a 70- to 135-degree angle to the computer keyboard.
- Wrists should be held in a neutral position while typing – not angled up or down. The mousing surface should be close to the keyboard so your child doesn’t have to reach or hold the arm away from the body.
- The child’s knees should be positioned at an approximate 90- to 120-degree angle. To accomplish this angle, feet can be placed on a foot rest, box, stool or similar object.
- Reduce eyestrain by making sure there is adequate lighting and that there is no glare on the monitor screen. Use an antiglare screen if necessary.
- Limit your child’s time at the computer and make sure he or she takes periodic stretch breaks during computing time. Stretches can include: clenching hands into fists and moving them in 10 circles inward and 10 circles outward; placing hands in a praying position and squeezing them together for 10 seconds and then pointing them downward and squeezing them together for 10 seconds; spreading fingers apart and then closing them one by one; standing and wrapping arms around the body and turning all the way to the left and then all the way to the right.
- Your child’s muscles need adequate hydration to work properly and avoid injury. Encourage your child to drink four 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Carbonated beverages, juices and other sweet drinks are not a substitute.
- Urge your child’s school or PTA officials to provide education on correct computer ergonomics and to install ergonomically correct workstations.
“If your child continues to complain of pain and strain from sitting at a computer, see a doctor of chiropractic, A chiropractor can help alleviate your child’s pain and help prevent further injury.”