Safety Brief - Is Work a Pain in the Neck?

Ergonomics is the science of fitting the job to the worker. Environmental Health and Safety has implemented an ergonomics program to focus on the prevention and management of musculoskeletal disorders associated with repetitive job duties. In this edition of the Environmental Health and Safety brief, learn tips to make your workstation more ergonomic-friendly.


Ergonomics at a Distance

Are you working full time at home these days? The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has challenged employers to equip workers with the tools they need to do their jobs safely at home, which includes making your workspace ergonomic friendly. As comfortable as some options may sound, using an improper workstation setup for an extended duration can cause awkward posture that can increase the risk for ergonomic-related injuries or musculoskeletal disorders such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. It is important to set up your workstation as best you can to prevent injury, regardless of where you might work.  Sure, you can invest in a height-adjustable table or keyboard tray, ergonomic chair, and more, but you also can make simple changes to your workstation using things you already have in your home.  Below are some simple tips for your setup:

  • Use a good office chair, if possible. If you don’t have a good chair, add pillows for back and leg support.
  • Raise your chair.  Most kitchen tables and desks are too high. Use a pillow as a seat cushion if needed, or better yet use an external keyboard and a lap desk.
  • Support your feet on a step stool, a sturdy box, etc., if they don’t firmly touch the ground while sitting.
  • Take frequent breaks, at least one every 30 minutes.
  • Have a phone call? Stand or pace for the duration to get in some extra movement.
  • You can work from a variety of spaces.  Changing your posture often is important.
  • Place your monitor about 20 inches in front of you or at arm’s length. Having the monitor too close will strain your eyes, while placing it too far away may make you slouch forward in an attempt to read what’s on the screen.
  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and to naturally remind you to get up and take a break.
  • If you have kids or pets, you will get interrupted. Try to establish a routine and involve them when you do take a break so they get time with you throughout the day. Accept that your work and personal life will intersect, and that’s okay.


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