Our new range of footstools got us thinking about other potential health and safety problems in the workplace and what solutions there are. So here is our humble guide to workplace ergonomics, hopefully you’ll pick up a few helpful hints and tips along the way.
When sitting in potentially awkward positions for long periods of time at work there are some really simple ways of making the daily routine much more comfortable. A lot of the time workers can have a ‘make do and mend’ attitude towards workplace health and safety but if you are not careful this can result in really very avoidable injuries such as strains, aches and pains.
Repetitive strain injuries are a very common problem in the working environment and usually involve the back, neck and upper limbs, although the lower limbs can also be affected from incorrect feet placement, which we will discover later in this article.
But first we look at the very common problem of overreaching, although many do not realise how much of a problem it can be until they really take a look at their working environment.
1. Reach Zones:
Just because you are at a workstation does not mean you are doing the same kind of work as the person at the next desk. Work and working styles can vary enormously; this means that working environments must adapt to manage the different needs people can have from their workplace.
The best way to organise your workspace is to think about the different reach zones in front of you. Items in the primary reach zones should include those which are used most frequently on a day to day basis. For example, if you work a lot on the computer the keyboard and mouse should be placed in the primary reach zone directly in front of you. This is usually within a 25cm radius from the edge of your desk.
Best practice is to continue this exercise until you have sorted through everything on or around your desk. The phone position should depend on how much you use the phone etc. This will make a real difference to your daily working routine. The less you are stretching and overreaching for things the less strain you will be putting on your body. Heights and widths of work surfaces, if possible, should be designed to avoid overreaching.
In an industrial workspace, workstations can become easily cluttered with different tools and fixings. Things which are used once are left at the surface edge whereas things which are used all the time, such a nuts and bolts, are left here, there and everywhere.
Best practice is to keep the area you do most of your work at clutter free. Putting items away in drawers, whilst for most people works very well, is not always the answer, sometimes the answer is to go up. Attaching shelves, tool panels or plastic bin racks to the rear frame of a workstation can make a huge difference to the working environment. There you can see everything clearly whilst being able to access it easily and efficiently if needed, this way your worktop is left free for you to make the most of your space. For example, if you need a certain type of fixing you would be able to look up select the bin with the right ones in, empty it on to your desk to work with closely and when you’re finished, put them all back again.
Don’t strain your eyes either:
A lot of us now work facing a screen for the majority of the day. Computers are such a big part of our daily lives that we need to take the necessary care in making sure that we are not compromising our eyesight or posture when using them.
The ideal monitor distance is between 50 and 100 centimetres from your eyes. You should start with the monitor being far away and slowly move it towards you until you can read text on the screen comfortably.
2. Are you sitting comfortably?
The posture you have when sat at a work surface is of the upmost importance. Sitting on a chair that is too high, too low or that is not the correct distance from what you are working on can put a real strain on certain areas of the body. People offer suffer from severe back pain because of an incorrect sitting position and this is one of the easiest things to put right.
When sat on a chair your feet should be flat on the floor. Your legs should be bent at a 90° angle with the seat slightly above knee height. To ensure feet are firmly flat on the floor a seat with an adjustable height is recommended as this ensures the best possible position. Also in some cases one particular work area is not always used by the same person. Most people tend to ‘put up’ with a chair that is not at the exact right position for them, which can lead to problems in the long run, meaning that a height adjustable seat can make a world of difference.
3. A footrest is key:
“My work requires me to sit at the computer for long periods. Despite a good office chair and regular breaks, my legs often started feeling numb during the course of the day.
Fortunately, my workstation was assessed recently. What do you think the problem was? After my chair had been adjusted to the right height for my desk, my feet did not tough the floor. This created pressure under my thighs which, in the course of the day, brought about the discomfort in my legs.
To prevent this, an ergonomic footrest was recommended. In our organisation, both function and design are highly regarded.”
This is such a common problem in many workplace environments but often little is known or done about it. If your feet are not flat on the floor when you are seated this can lead to real problems with your legs and back and there is such a quick solution. A footrest is such a simple and efficient solution to, what can be, quite a serious problem. There are several possibilities, a stand-alone footrest on the ground or a foot ring or footboard fixed on a chair.
4. Working at the right height for you:
Are you hunched over when working at your desk? Perhaps you stand at a workstation that is too low? Or sit at one that’s too high? Often, when workers are doing multiple activities at a workstation the platform is at an inconvenient level. The ideal solution to this is to use a height adjustable workbench. With this the user can easily move the bench to a convenient height, one at which they are not putting unnecessary strain on their bodies. This can also be the perfect solution for when multiple people work in the same area. Obviously, not everyone is the same height and so will have different needs which a motorised or hand cranked bench can easily accommodate to.
Did you know that it is also suggested that those who sit down at a desk all day should do more of their work standing up? Standing up for just three hours a day will consume 144 calories and burn an extra 8lb of fat per year. Dr Buckley of the University of Chester suggests that regular changes in the workplace can make long term improvements, “It’s little changes in behaviour… such as standing at your desk that can add up to make quite a big difference to your health”. Although do be sure to stand on the right surface, find out more about this later.
However these can be quite pricey and if your budget will not stretch to an investment like this then the best solution is to purchase a fixed height table at the maximum possible height. This way the tallest person will be able to sit under it and with the right equipment, a height adjustable chair, footrest and keyboard tray, everyone else at your workplace will be able to use it comfortably as well.
5. Preventing Problems whilst Bending:
If your job involves you bending over for a considerable period of time this can lead to really quite severe back issues. Holding your body in unnatural positions throughout the day can take its toll and other alternatives should be implemented wherever possible. A great way to tackle this matter is to use a height adjustable portable stool when working at lower levels. Having several industrial stools fitted with castors in a workplace will help to reduce back pain as working in a seated position provides relief and affords good posture.
6. And Finally…
One final product that can significantly improve the health and safety of any workplace environment is an anti-fatigue mat. Standing on the wrong type of surface for long periods of time can lead to poor posture. Although standing for a few hours a day is recommended in order to combat a too sedentary lifestyle, as we saw earlier, and for some standing at work is completely unavoidable, you must take care in what you stand on and what potential problems this could have. An anti-fatigue mat has good elastic properties and is very hard wearing. If you choose one with a ball-shaped surface this will stimulate good blood circulation which prevents against tiredness and stress injuries to the back and legs.
To save on cost anti-fatigue mats can often be cut to order, so you are able to design your workplace efficiently and to a tight budget.
So there you have it. Some important hints and tips on how to improve daily life at your workplace. With just a few changes you can make drastic improvements and cater for a wide range of people for less money.
All of the products featured in this article can be found on this website, simply search for what you’re looking for, order a catalogue or for more information contact us to discuss your options and we can help you create your own unique workplace designed around your company. We even offer a bespoke design package, Gigant 3D, with which you can see a realistic version of your new workplace before you purchase a thing!
• Organise the items around your desk in terms of frequency
• Sit between 20 to 40 inches from your screen, when you can read the text most clearly
• Keep your feet flat on the floor whilst seated, or use a footrest if this is not possible
• Rest your elbows lightly on the desk whilst working
• Keep a straight back as often as possible
• Work to your height, which may involve changing your seat or table height
• Stand on an appropriate surface if stood for a long time
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