Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween - scary statistics!

Studies have shown that 8 out of 10 computer-using employees will suffer soft tissue injuries, and 2 out of 10 will suffer pain continuously as a direct result of using a computer for a large part of the working day. 

Will you become a statistic? 

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2009-10, about 640,700 people (5.3% of the 12 million people employed at some time in the last 12 months) experienced a work-related injury or illness. Among the 284,300 women who experienced work-related injuries or illnesses 24% were Professionals.

The most commonly reported injuries or illnesses were sprains and strains (30%), followed by chronic joint or muscle conditions (18%), and cuts or open wounds (16%). 

Around 30% of persons who worked at some time in the last 12 months had not received formal training in occupational health and safety risks in the workplace. 

The direct cost of workplace injury can include medical expenses and increases to worker's compensation premiums. However, indirect costs can also add up through increased employee turnover, higher absenteeism and retraining expenses. Not to forget decreased productivity, work quality and low employee morale. Preventing and controlling ergonomic risk factors often cost a fraction of what one worker's compensation claim can cost. Prehab is better than rehab. 

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Office Breakup

Sometimes written word is not necessary.. check out the office breakup series from

What will you be telling your chair tomorrow?

Monday, 10 October 2011

iPad a pain in the neck?

Have you joined the recent iPad revolution? Spending hours on the train, couch or sitting in bed with your head hunched over the marvellous new technology?

I use an iPad when completing ergonomic assessments. It's part of my paper-free policy. It's a great time-saver and looks professional, but I do have to admit that I do get a bit sore if I have a full day of assessments, or if I have to walk between appointments with the iPad in my handbag. The sustained neck flexion and hunching of shoulders while tapping away with the iPad on my lap or on a desk isn't the best example of ergonomics, though not so dissimilar to writing with pen and paper.

How to overcome this?

  • I've started putting the iPad in my small trolley bag which contains by ergonomic equipment samples. This has made a huge difference by not having the extra weight in my handbag.
  • Using the angled iPad case tilts the screen towards me, which results in less hunching over, and I try to use a desk wherever possible to elevate the iPad higher than my lap. 

Check out this article from the Herald Sun about iPad use:

iPad neck - ergonomics experts warn of tablet injury

THE rise of the iPad could prove to be a serious pain in the neck if its ergonomic failings are not addressed, experts warn.
Light, portable and convenient, the tablet device is tipped to replace textbooks in classrooms and may eventually take over the domain of the laptop computer.
But the posture adopted by users could put them at risk of chronic neck and shoulder pain.
"Any activity where you hold your head forward in a flexed or bent position for a prolonged period of time is going to cause neck issues," said Dr Jodi Oakman, a senior lecturer at La Trobe University's Centre for Ergonomics & Human Factors.
The damage caused could take a long time to heal, she warned, with the risk to young children particularly disturbing.
"There's no empirical research on the iPad, but we can make a pretty good assumption based on tissue studies what's going to happen," Dr Oakman said.
Victorian school- and pre-school-aged children, some as young as three, are using iPads as a learning tool as part of a State Government trial.
"Do we really want all this exposure to bad posture in the younger generation?"
Dr Oakman said while the iPad solved some problems for school children — it is cheaper, lighter and easier to carry than a laptop — it created others and should be approached with caution.
"It's a new technology that we are quick to embrace, but we don't actually know what musco-skeletal problems might be attributed to it."
She said the key to avoiding injury was to "move more, vary your positions as much as possible and, if you want to use the iPad as a typing device, use a separate keyboard".
While using the iPad as a reading device was no more risky than reading a book, she said, the danger arose when users turned to the tablet for an increasing number of tasks.
"Don't use it to replace the computer unless you give serious consideration to how the work station is set up," she said.
Massage therapist Liz Astling said she noticed an onslaught of neck pain in her clients when the iPad hit the market last year — "especially men getting really obsessed with it and not wanting to put it down."
One client, she said, had an ergonomic keyboard fitted to his computer at work and his symptoms were improving — until he started using an iPad, when the neck and shoulder pain returned.
"Across the board, people who've not necessarily had a lot of neck pain in the past are getting these symptoms," she said.
"I ask them if they have an iPad and they start telling me how wonderful it is."
Ms Astling said the iPad should receive the same ergonomic attention as the desktop computer did a decade ago, when she saw a similar pattern in her practice.
"I think it needs research," she said.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Get organised to get ergonised

What type of desktop do you have? I'm not talking computer screens here.. what kind of desk top do you have? Is it neat and organised or full of piled up folders, 4 empty mugs of coffee, Post-Its galore and a pen... somewhere?

It's often said that it is good practice to tidy your desk at the end of every day so that you can start the next day with a clean desk. I suppose it can almost be compared to washing up dishes at night. I like to have everything washed and wiped down, so that the next morning I don't have the heavy feeling of having to get through a pile of things before the new day has even begun! Surely greeting the work day with piles of folders and files suffocating your desk can't be a good thing. Not for the mind... nor for the body.

You've probably gathered by now, from monthly ergo tips on Facebook and these blogs, that extended reaching to get things off your desk can put extra strain on your shoulders, neck and back. Now imagine reaching out and holding that position for a minute or so while rummaging through piles of paperwork on your desk. More often than not, people plant their feet on the floor below their keyboard and twist in their seat to reach to the right or left of their desk. This can place a great deal of strain on the spine, especially if the end result is to lift up a heavy folder. So.. what can be done?

Organise your desk into different Work Zones...

1. Computer zone: Usually in the centre of the desk, the computer zone contains the keyboard, mouse and monitor.

2. Phone zone: Place the phone within an arm's reach, and in the area that you use it most. For example, if you always turn towards the partition for privacy, keep the phone on that side of the desk. However if you tend to write notes while on the phone, have adequate space near the phone for a notepad, and make sure you have clear leg room under the desk.

3. Paperwork zone: If you need to read or write notes at work, have a section of your desk allocated for that task. This would be the best place to put desk trays or a shelf for easy access of materials. The more things that you can offload from your desk to easily accessible areas, the more your body, and mind, will thank you.

How about you organise your desk today!