How to Help Identify Office Ergonomics Issues

Even in an office environment, each worker must have tools that fit so injuries will be less likely to occur

Office ergonomic areas of concern are workstations or desks with computer monitors. When the same task is repeated over and over, portions of the body are held in awkward positions, undue strain is placed on muscles or other unadvisable conditions such as glare, poor temperature control or excessive vibration are present, then repetitive or cumulative trauma-related injuries can occur.

Lifting a load and the way in which materials are handled can also cause concern. Injuries can occur when a worker overreaches, lifts incorrectly or improperly uses the lifting aids which are provided. (See Back Safety: Sprains, and Strains.)

How to help identify possible ergonomics issues

If ergonomic strains are allowed to continue, injuries can occur that could lead to workers' compensation claims. Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD), strain of the lower back and strain of the shoulders are typical ergonomic stress claims.

Evaluations should identify such things as the frequency and severity of exposure to cumulative or repetitive trauma. Here are several evaluators to help you identify potential areas of office ergonomics concern:

- Be aware of any unnecessary bending, twisting, or other full-body extensions that could increase risk factors such as repetition, awkward posture, position, and force. Disorders of the back are particularly susceptible to these types of movements.

- Failure to maintain the alignment of the head and neck can contribute to a troublesome work environment.

- Overreaching or other unusual extensions can cause back or shoulder cumulative or repetitive traumas.

- Unnecessary elbow stress can cause strained upper body muscles.

- When wrists are unnecessarily or repetitively bent, increased strain and pressure are placed on the joints, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels that travel through the sheathed carpal tunnel found in the wrist. Muscles, tendons, and nerves may become damaged, resulting in numb fingers and ever-increasing difficulty performing precise work.

- Another concern is when employees must squat or kneel frequently. If this is happening, it means that employees are exposed to poor ergonomics and the concerns previously mentioned are raised.

- If the feet or back are not properly supported, scoring can become uncomfortable and cause strain of the lower back.

If you are designing or renovating your work space, consider these evaluators. Although each design is dependent upon the nature of the work being performed as well as the physical characteristics and capacities of the employee, the end goal of the design should be to reduce ergonomic strain.

Office ergonomics resources:

Guide to Ergonomic Office Workstation Design

Reducing Ergonomic Strain in the Office

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One, two, three ... arrrgh! And another one, two, three ... arrrgh! And another back is strained...