Preventing injuries in the office environment

More and more people are getting injuries from the office workplace, while sitting at a workstations, as much as workers in positions of manual labor. SPSCC students need to create good workplace habits now, to avoid injuries in pursuit of their post collegiate careers.

The technical term for maximizing productivity and preventing injuries and discomfort is ergonomics. It is the applied science of equipment design for the workplace, intended to address this widespread and growing trend of on-the-job injuries.

It is not so much as severe cuts and broken bones, and has become more insidious as carpal tunnel syndrome, joint pain and skeletal misalignment, just to name a few.

This has especially become true with the advent of more jobs being orientated around a computer workstation with furnishings that are not “ergo friendly.”
According to Scott W. Donkin, Doctor of Chiropractics, in “Sitting on the Job,”:

     “You can create your best working environment by learning how to fit chair, lighting, and workspace to your body to increase comfort and productivity on the job. Some ergonomic injuries happen because of repetitive motions, while others may happen due to one single event. It’s very common for these kinds of injuries to occur in a person’s joints. Sometimes it takes years of accumulated work to gradually deteriorate the joints, and sometimes it occurs quickly. Another common location for ergonomic injuries is in the tendons because they can easily become inflamed over time. An example of a common tendon injury is tendonitis that people develop when they type on computer keyboards at a bad angle.”

Dr. Donkin prescribes some simple safety measures one can take at the office to avoid becoming a victim of poor ergonomics: Obtaining an ergonomic chair that provides proper support and alignment of the spine, having the keyboard tray positioned at the proper height, so as to keep the forearms and wrists in a straight, horizontal position, ensuring the monitor is at the proper elevation so the head does not slouch or hyperextend.

He advocates taking a five minute break every hour to do some office friendly stretches at your desk. It is also recommended to not sit for prolonged periods of time without taking a standing break. He also describes having your work area organized so you do not have to twist excessively to fetch documents, work on papers, answer the phone, or extract files from a drawer.

Some other tips shared by Donkin include proper lighting, especially if your workstation is near a window. Reflections on the monitor can create problems for your eyes.
Speaking of windows, cold drafts can create muscle cramps and tension. Overhead vents can have similar effects. Errant noises in the office can interfere with your concentration while performing tasks. Stress can have adverse effects and create fatigue.

Donkin recommends breathing techniques to alleviate stress and, of course, he prescribes daily exercise. The most common way to easily work exercise into your daily routine is to plan a short walk during breaks.