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Ergonomics (say "er-guh-NOM-iks") is the study of the kind of work you do, the environment you work in, and the tools you use to do your job. The goal of office ergonomics is to set up your office work space so that it fits you and the job you are doing.
It focuses on how things are set up in your office work space, such as:
Office ergonomics can help you be more comfortable at work. It can help lower stress and injury caused by awkward positions and repetitive tasks.
It's common for injury and illness to happen at work. Both can cost you and your employer time and money. They can also affect how well you do your job. Injuries can cause stress and strain on your muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, blood vessels, and spine.
You could also be at risk for problems such as tendinopathy and bursitis. These are caused by overuse and repetitive movements. Over time, these kinds of movements can make you feel bad. They can cause long-term health problems. And they use up your sick time.
By applying ergonomic solutions, you may be able to reduce physical problems and improve your comfort and ability to work effectively.
When your workstation is set up right, you may:
Here are a few ways you can prevent injuries at work.
If you can, switch to another task.
Good general health, including strength and flexibility, can help prevent injuries. It will also help you recover faster if you are injured.
Musculoskeletal problems are common in the workplace. Your musculoskeletal system is made up of the structures that support you and help you move, such as bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Examples of musculoskeletal problems that may be related to ergonomic issues are:
Symptoms can include pain in your:
Good posture at work can help prevent musculoskeletal injuries.
Keep the natural curves in your back. Slouching increases stress on your back and can also make you feel less energetic.
Try putting one foot up on a low stool.
Try to not lean over a low desk.
Relax your shoulders, keep your feet flat on the floor, and avoid leaning close to tasks on your desk.
Here are some ways you can help prevent falls at work.
Vision-related problems are common in the workplace.
Typical problems include:
You can reduce your risk of vision problems from improper lighting with:
It's also a good idea to have an eye exam as often as your doctor recommends. If you wear bifocals or reading glasses, you may want to adjust your monitor so that you don't have to tilt your head back to see clearly. Or consider full-frame reading glasses for computer use. There are also progressive lenses available that have a reading prescription at the bottom, a mid-distance prescription that is good for computer use in the middle of the lens, and a long-distance prescription at the top of the lens. The lens has these three types of prescriptions in different areas of the glass and smooth transitions between types of prescriptions.
Hearing problems are common in the workplace.
Noise can produce tension and stress and interfere with your ability to concentrate. And it can damage your hearing.
You and your company can reduce your risk for hearing loss or other problems associated with noise levels with:
Ergonomics may prevent musculoskeletal injuries (such as back strain or carpal tunnel syndrome) by reducing physical and mental stress caused by the workstation setup. By focusing on the physical setup of your workstation and the tools you use, you can reduce your chances of injuries. It also is important to evaluate the work process, including job organization, worker rotation, task variety, and demands for speed and quality.
Here are some ways to use your workstation properly.
Try to sit or stand comfortably in a position that does not put stress on any specific area of your body. You should be able to keep your neck in a neutral position and minimize the need to look up or to the sides continuously while you are working.
Keep the workstation and workstation tools within reach without having to lean, bend, or twist at the waist frequently.
For example, look away from your computer monitor, stand up, or stretch your arms. Short breaks reduce eye strain and buildup of muscle tension.
Try taking 3- to 5-minute breaks—or changing tasks—every 20 to 40 minutes. Working intensely over long periods of time without taking breaks can greatly increase your risk for musculoskeletal injuries. Taking breaks and stretching may reduce the risk of repetitive motion injuries.
Stretch your body by getting up out of your chair and stretching your arms, shoulders, back, and legs. When you are sitting, shrug and relax your shoulders.
If you do similar work or activities at home, be sure to apply these principles there as well to avoid the cumulative effect of repetitive motions.
When you set up an ergonomic workstation, choose workstation tools that fit your personal physical and comfort needs, such as:
Many people use laptop computers as secondary workstations. If you use a laptop often, try the following ways to improve your ergonomic workstation.
Using a docking station that provides an adjustable keyboard can help keep your wrists in a neutral position to reduce stress and strain.
For example, look away from your computer monitor, stand up, or stretch your arms. Short breaks reduce eyestrain and the buildup of muscle tension.
Also keep your head about 45 cm (18 in.) to 75 cm (30 in.) away from the monitor screen.
Position the keyboard so that it is at elbow height. You may need to use a pillow under your elbows to support your arms if you are sitting on a couch or chair while keying.
Use this instead of the small touch pad or trackball that is on the laptop keyboard.
You can help make an ergonomic workstation for your child by following these tips.
Your child should be able to see the monitor without looking up. Your child's shoulders should be relaxed when typing. You may want to have your child sit on a thick book, a firm pillow, or a booster seat.
Use a footstool (or a thick book or a backpack) to support your child's feet if they don't rest comfortably on the floor.
If needed, use a firm pillow behind your child's back to scoot your child toward the front of the chair.
You may need to adjust the keyboard and mouse or other input device.
Home treatment can help relieve discomfort caused by stress and overuse. You can try home treatment for a few days when you first notice symptoms.
To help prevent another injury, review your work area. Make sure it fits you and the job you are doing. You may be able to get more information about workplace safety and ergonomics from your human resources department or your province's Ministry of Labour.
If you have tried home treatment, such as rest, but your pain and discomfort have lasted for several days (for example, 7 continuous days), call your doctor. Health professionals who can diagnose and treat work-related injuries include:
You may be able to get help or information through:
Current as of: November 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: Adam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineJoan Rigg PT, OCS - Physical Therapy
Current as of: November 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Joan Rigg PT, OCS - Physical Therapy
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