When you think about workplace safety, you probably think about wearing a hard hat, putting on safety glasses or even steel-toed shoes. But workplace safety involves more than just wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
Staying safe at work can also encompass things like maintaining correct posture, using proper hand and wrist movements at a computer, and even monitoring computer screen time to prevent eye strain.
How can posture cause a workplace injury? Repetitive or sustained improper body movements can cause a variety of medical issues.
One example that most people know about is carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s a condition that over 5 million Americans experience and according to Livestrong.com the average cost of carpal tunnel release surgery can cost upwards of $5,000.
That is a heavy cost for employers and employees to bear, as well as a lot of lost productivity for your company.
But, how can these types of workplace injuries be avoided?
One way to combat these types of employee injuries is through the implementation of ergonomic design principles. Implementing ergonomic design when planning your lab or office environment can help employees work with correct posture, ensure they are viewing screens and monitors in correct lighting and at correct angles, and provide employee with the flexibility to use their spaces comfortably.
The following are key furnishing and accessories to consider when improving workplace safety:
Selecting ergonomic chairs or stools is the first step to preventing workplace injuries. People that work in office environments spend most of their day sitting. A chair that allows the user to adjust things like arm position, height, seat depth and even back lumbar support helps each employee – regardless of size – to find the correct posture and position for their body type.
Adjustable arms ensure that users don't rest their elbows on the arms of their chair and push their shoulders up towards their ears. This type of posture can cause neck and shoulder tightness and strain. Adjustable seat depth and chair height can prevent blood flow from being restricted from behind the knees (legs should be bent at a 90 degree angle with users' feet placed flat on the floor). Lumbar support prevents extra strain from being placed on a user's upper or lower back.
Height Adjustable Worksurfaces
The buzz phrase right now is “sitting is the new smoking.” This is because new research links sitting for long periods of time to many chronic illnesses and even mortality.
According to an article published on CNN.com “There's a direct relationship between time spent sitting and your risk of early mortality of any cause.” However, the article goes on to say “People who sat for less than 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of early death."
Height adjustable worksurfaces allow people to either sit or stand when working, getting workers out of their seats and moving more often. Height adjustable surfaces are also key to meeting the needs of employees of varying heights. A five-foot-tall woman will need her desk surface mounted at a different height than a six-foot-tall woman in order to view her monitor using the correct posture.
You can learn more about height adjustable workstations in our previous article.
To prevent neck or shoulder strain, monitors should be positioned so that the top line of the screen is slightly below eye level with the user when they are in an upright posture. Monitor arms can allow for easy movement of one, or multiple computer monitors in order to keep them at the correct eye level for different employees.
A solution like this would be perfect for shared work spaces or lab stations, where different employees will be using the same equipment.
Keyboard trays can help keep employees’ shoulders and wrists in the correct position when typing so as to prevent strain or nerve damage. When a height adjustable desk is not an option or when an employee is working in a shared space, keyboard trays, like monitor arms, allow for easy adjustments for employees of varying heights.
There are a variety of add-on accessories available for workbenches or desks that can improve ergonomics. Lighting can be added under overhead cabinets to help prevent eye strain. Document holders can help keep items within easy reach, preventing unnecessary bending. Phone or computer headsets can keep employees from experience neck pain as a result of cradling their phone between their ear and shoulder.
Shelves, drawers and product bins mounted to workstations
If you keep these six principles of ergonomic design in mind when planning your next industrial or lab work space you will be on your way to increasing workplace safety for all employees.