The Case for Ergonomics

Here I’ve gone and given you all sorts of things to try with your computer. I would feel guilty if I didn’t bring up ergonomics. The goal behind ergonomics is to design the work to best fit the worker. Highly repetitive tasks are prone cause physical problems. The goal is to prevent back injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and other musculoskeletal disorders.

How serious is the problem? Very. According to the U.S. department of Labor, approximately one-third of all occupational injuries are directly tied to over-exertion and repetitive motion. These injuries
cost employers over $20 billion in worker compensation each year.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identified ergonomic hazards as the nation’s number one job safety problem. Over 1.8 million workers are affected each year. More than 600,000 workers miss work each year as the result of their injuries. The actual numbers are much higher as many workers do not report these injuries to their employers.
Are you a candidate for back problems or wrist pain? You bet. Editors and motion graphic artist log more hours sitting in chairs and pounding on keyboards than almost any other position.

“The mouse is causing more injuries than keyboards ever did,” said James Golden, Certified Associate Ergonomist of Contour Design, Inc. He adds that, “More companies are focusing on solving this mouse problem, due to the increased workers compensation claims associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other Repetitive Stress Injuries.”

Several companies now offer ergonomic mice. The goal is to make a mouse that comfortably fits your hand. You will find comfortable options available from Apple, Microsoft, Logitech, Kensignton, and Contour Design. An ergonomic mouse only costs a few dollars more than your “typical” mouse. Most stores have the mice out of the box so you can try them hands-on to look for a good fit.

“Most of our clients buy ergonomic products to solve an injured employee problem,” said Golden.  “We feel that anyone who has any discomfort, that could be computer related, should at least educate himself about office ergonomics.”

If a new mouse and proper alignment of monitor and keyboard don’t solve the problem, you may have to look down, at your chair that is. A properly sized chair is an expensive, but worthwhile investment.

“Poor sitting posture is the leading cause of back pain in the US.  A good chair can help with that very common issue,” said Golden. “At any one time, 20% of the population is suffering from some kind of back pain.  Also, 80% of the population will have back pain at some point in their lives.” 

So what can you do? If you don’t already have a proper chair and mouse, get one. You may also need to re-arrange your computer/keyboard/monitor setup. If you need more information, be sure to check out the following links.

Web sites for ergonomics information
Healthy Computing:
Typing Injuries (FAQ):"
CTD Resource Network:"