68 per cent of employees in the Middle East suffer from repetitive strain injury. Are you sitting comfortably?
Shockingly, it has been revealed that 68 per cent of employees in the Middle East suffer from repetitive strain injury (RSI). The study by the UK’s Chartered Society of Physiotherapy stated that likely causes here are ‘poorly fitted office chairs, long working hours and hot summer months preventing staff from taking breaks from their computer screens’. Sure, it’s important to put the effort in at work, but is it worth crippling yourself?
The answer to that, obviously, is no. Which is where ergonomics, the study of how to best fit the job, equipment and workplace to the worker, comes into play. ‘There are no set ergonomic laws about how an office should be designed in the UAE,’ says Fiona Chandler, from Dubai-based interior design consultancy, CitySpace. ‘Dubai’s freezones are currently writing the guidebooks as they go along – with most leaning towards European standards.’
Within any office there are ergonomic ideals that only the most senior can control. ‘The optimum office temperature is 22C,’ explains Nick Burnett, also of CitySpace. ‘And, according to European standards, each worker should have 70-75 square feet of space, the ceiling should be 2.7m high and, ideally, computer screens ought to be attached to the desk via an adjustable monitor arm so they can be adjusted to fit anyone – especially in a city as international as Dubai’.
But what if you’ve already been allocated a workspace and there’s no chance of your boss making it more ergonomically-friendly? CitySpace still has a few suggestions:
1) ‘Place your hand on the small of your back. Does your chair offer extra (lumbar) support in this area? If not, and you can’t swap the chair, it’s worth placing a non-bulky cushion in this spot, to support your back.’
2) ‘If your chair has wheels, it should have five. Four means that it cannot balance properly, and you should try to replace it.’
3) ‘If you’re going to invest in a chair, go for one designed and manufactured by a reputable furniture company , for example Herman Miller. Their Aeron chair was designed 25 years ago and is proven to be ergonomically sound. Mesh chairs are also popular at the moment, and improve airflow.’
4) ‘The top of your screen should always be in line with your eye level, otherwise you will cause neck strain. Invest in a stand, monitor arm – or at least use a pile of books.’
5) ‘If you’re not located near a window (ideally, a workspace should be), ensure you have some other aesthetically pleasant feature, such as flowers or a plant near you to focus on every now and again. It will do wonders for your state of mind.’
6) ‘Be aware of the variety of potential work spaces within your office – soft seating areas, cafés or even your office lunch room. Moving around helps to keep your creative stimulus alive.’
7) ‘The most ergonomic stance is standing, as you can continually adjust your position to avoid putting pressure on your back. Don’t be afraid to work standing at a bench or even around waist high storage cabinets, especially during brainstorming sessions.’
8) ‘The less storage there is in an office, the better. Clutter is psychologically stifling. Have regular clear-outs and keep your desk tidy.’
9) ‘Other useful accessories include foot rests, mouse and mouse pads, each specifically designed to tilt the feet and hands in the correct direction and improve bloodflow.’
10) ‘Learn to touch-type – or at least learn some keyboard shortcuts to avoid reaching for the mouse as much as possible. Some employees in multinational companies have even taken ergonomic training to learn how to use to the mouse with the left hand (if right-handed) and vice versa, to help vary posture and avoid RSI.’
California Chiropractic & Sports Medicine Centre will assess whether your office or working environment is the cause of poor posture and subsequent back pain and problems, 04 429 8292, www.californiachiropracticcenter.com
Not only RSI, can be considered a result of reptetive motion in any body area. The bad posture maintenance events in a repetitive way will install a pain situation for static muscle overuse.
M Warner Sep 02, 2009 08:39 am
RSI is a collective term and is not in itself an actual injury. The term covers a number of symptoms associated with musculoskeletal disorders the term more widely used. As the article correctly points out, its not always repetitive movements that causes problems in using computers or office equipment.
As someone who has been advising both employers and employees on DSE (Display screen equipment i.e. computers and ancillary equipment) issues in a large organisation, its worth remembering that guarding against many of the potential problems caused by employees using computers for extended periods of time can cost very little in time and money. The majority of safeguards can be achieved often through sound education and competent advice; most employees can usually resolve many of their own issues. I can almost guarantee that the majority of computer mouse users do so incorrectly and that often leads to shoulder and wrist complications.
Employers should not underestimate the impact that poor DSE use can have on productivity and in worse cases staff absences. Increasingly staff are also seeking compensation from employers who disregard what is often thought of as harmless office equipment. Just because a computer workstation doesn’t have sharp edges or make loud noises doesn’t mean to say that in the wrong hands it cannot be potentially harmful.
If your staff are not only using computers but their voices for long periods of time have you also considered voice care? What about hearing when using headphones? Any employer who ignores any of the human factors in doing any job does so to the potential detriment of their business. Employers in many parts of the world have a legal obligation to ensure good DSE practices are adopted but I would suggest that a morale obligation is more of an incentive and without exception certainly financial motivation.
Sound ergonomics and good DSE procedures will save money in more ways than one; I have evidenced that first hand and it really does pay to adopt sound DSE adherence as part of safeguarding your business.
Sonia Aug 04, 2009 07:34 am
This is all well and good for desktops, what about laptops?