Workplace ergonomics is getting a lot of nationwide attention in response to a sharp increase in incidents of repetitive-strain injuries resulting in musculoskeletal disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Occupational diseases often mean repeated surgery, intractable pain, inability to work, time off for the affected employee and, ultimately, higher costs for the employer.
Below are four steps a company can take to address this growing problem.
Review tasks for risk factors: The first step to correcting problems is to understand the key workplace ergonomic risk factors, and review work tasks in your operation to see which ones apply. This can make a tremendous difference, since occupational safety professionals estimate that reducing physical stresses could eliminate as much as half the serious injuries that happen each year.
Control risk factors with engineering and administrative controls, and personal equipment, where it is effective: Engineering controls to improve ergonomic risks may include changing the way parts and materials are transported, or changing the process to reduce how workers are exposed to risk factors.
Understand how to make the work space work ergonomically: With any task, selecting the proper tool is crucial. The key is to understand the work process and employee’s safety needs. After identifying the likely risk factors in an operation, develop a safer work environment by carefully selecting the tools and work stations workers will use.
Use work station design principles to improve ergonomics: The following strategies typically yield safe work environments: make the work station adjustable, locate materials to reduce twisting, avoid static loads and fixed work postures, set the work surface to the particular task, provide adjustable chairs, allow workers to alternate between standing and sitting, support the limbs, use gravity, design for proper movements, consider computer monitors, provide simple dials and displays, and consider overall environmental conditions.
These are good steps to take, Jim, and definitely much needed. I don't work in an office environment anymore, but when I did I don't think enough attention was paid to ergonomics. Though I don't have serious physical ailments, I do have some minor complaints from being hunched over a computer for years that I think a little consideration to ergonomics might have prevented. Thanks for shining light on the problem again.
I also want to say...most people do not realize the placement of their monitor. I see it all the time. Look it up. Your eyes should gently look down towards the monitor. It reduces eye strain. I have seen montiors so far above the desk it's ridiculuos. Neck and eye strain. I read about this years ago and have adhered ever since.
Cabe, they do make gloves that help reduce the stress on your hands. I bought some years ago. They have supports in the palms and no fingers...might look into those...they helped me when I was drafting full time.
I just hate seeing people suffer using computers in situations that are totally avoildable if they just use a little common sense. Also, employers should be the ones not forcing uncormfortable computer setups on employees.
Cabe, if you are behind a computer and using one as much as you do...well I would think that you would come up with your own solution. I am behind one as much as you, and have been for more years than you for sure. I don't sit behind a desk, I don't do much of what "normal people" do...I can't. I spend too much time behind the pc, so I created my own way to make it comfortable, I suggest you do the same. It's a long road.
Monitors - everyone has their own suggestions for position, etc. If I had a 27" 2560x1440p screen, what do you recommend for position from the face?
Wrists/hands - I use a Microsoft 5000 curves keyboard. My problems were then solved after that. But voice recognition is a good idea. I will look into it. I used it when the software first came out. It was fun, but crude at the time (the year 1997). I'm sure 15 years has made it better.
Desk- I have a regular desk and a standing desk. Alternating between the two is a good way to break fatigue.
A colleague of mine just got a joystick style mouse after trying a few other designs. He loves it. The joystick itself doesn't move like a gaming one; the whole device moves just as a standard optical mouse would and the handgrip is fixed. The only thing is that it is USB tethered, not wireless.
To counteract tendonitis, I've occasionally used a simple adjustable velcro band that goes around the lower arm, just below the elbow. It works by compression, right on the tendon cluster that controls the fingers. There are several different ones available. I also find a touchpad even better than a mouse--except for the cursor movements of editing--and definitely can't use a trackball.
I agree. As for me, I'd love to "write" and/or edit, change programs, go online, etc., just by dancing to Jimi Hendrix in front of a Kinect-equipped computer. Or whatever we'd be calling it by then. But that means we'd have to be able to program our own individual Kinect-type device, or somehow configure it, to respond to our own individual body motions.
Thanks, Cadman-LT. That makes more sense. Regarding the article, the motion-capture tape was used initially for testing the software's accuracy in controlling a virtual robot, as the article states. The next-gen system will use Kinect to control an autonomous robot.
Ann next-gen system. Why start a project with out of date equipment. Isn't LEAP supposed to be so much better than the kinect? If they aren't even done with it why use old tech? It'll be out of date before it's launched.
A project starts with whatever technology is available at the time, so if it's the latest and greatest at the time, it's not exactly out of date. As I said, LEAP came out after they'd already started. And obviously, they don't think it's better than Kinect, at least for their project. Lots of people would agree with them: it depends on the project, and is often simply a matter of preference.
Is that what those things are for Ann? I've seen a number of people using those bands, but I could never figure out what they were used for...and didn't want to seem that nosy by asking. I'll have to keep that in mind.
The only postioning of the monitor (besides how far away it is) that I agree with is just slightly lower than your line of sight. So your eyes are not straining to look up. As far as a desk goes....I stopped using desks years ago.....I sit on a couch or lazy boy...make up your own way that makes that work for you....I have! I HATE desks!...lol well, unless I built them
At CES 2012 and 2013 I saw a log of those reclining chairs with monitors suspended around them. You lay back like a dentist’s operating chair. Is that good? It seems like it take all the strain off the body, while at the same time making it weak. Reminds me of the chair the “genius” programmer from the movie “Grandma’s Boy” sat in.
Jim, according to industrial saftey standards the employer has to appoint enough number of saftey officers for assessing various risk factors at work place and to make sure about necessary steps and precautions. But if we are looking to our industries, the number of saftey officers is very minimal and in some industries it's almost null. Then how can they ensure the saftey of employees at various working environments?
Excellent post Jim. I am assuming by the title you mean office environment AND factory floor environment. Prior to retirement, I was engineering support to three production lines; two gas assembly countertop lines and one gas slide-in gas range line. The number of "fatigue" injuries was remarkably high, in my opinion, and exceedingly difficult to solve with fixtures and tooling alone. We did incorporate automation to some degree but the best solution seeded to be rotating personnel so that a maximum of three hours per day on the most difficult job was the answer. I think this solution certainly follows from the four recommendations you made in you post.
A customer who was thermal printing strip steel had a problem: When the strip's speed increased, the thermo printer would catch fire. When he set a flame to a piece of the strip, he couldn't get it to burn. What was the problem?
Engineers are well positioned to be the leaders for innovation in this new age of machines. Human-centered design enables us to manage the vast amounts of information and the power of technology in solving the world’s problems.