Spot The Safety Violation: Sit up Straight!
What’s wrong with how this worker is sitting while working on the computer?
Many workplaces have ergonomics-related safety hazards that can cause repetitive stress or musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs). And although MSIs aren’t generally considered serious injuries under the OHS laws, they do account for a high percentage of workplace injuries overall—and workers’ comp claims.
For example, the worker in this X-ray is hunched over in a posture that places stress on his back, neck and shoulders. Such poor posture and positioning while working on a computer can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and other MSIs.
Tips for Correct Posture
The OHS laws in all Canadian jurisdictions—either expressly or implicitly—require employers to protect workers from ergonomics-related hazards, even in office spaces. So if your workers spend time at a desk or workstation or in front of a computer, make sure they maintain an ergonomically neutral posture, which is one in which:
- Hands, wrists and forearms are straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor;
- Head is level (or bent slightly forward), facing forward, balanced and in line with the torso;
- Shoulders are relaxed;
- Upper arms hang normally at the side of the worker’s body;
- Elbows stay close to the body and are bent between 90° and 120°;
- Feet are fully supported by the floor or a footrest if the desk height isn’t adjustable and are slightly forward;
- Back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support when the worker is sitting vertically or leaning back slightly;
- Thighs and hips are supported by a well-padded seat that’s parallel to the floor; and
- Knees are about the same height as the hips.
The positioning of the computer screen is also important for preventing MSIs:
- The worker shouldn’t be too close to or far from the computer screen—20 to 40 inches is optimal.
- The screen shouldn’t be tilted too far left or right. It should be tilted no more than 35° degrees to either side.
- The screen or keyboard also shouldn’t be too high or low to use in a neutral posture.
To keep your workers from developing MSIs regardless of the type of work they do, you should:
- Understand employers’ legal obligations under the OHS laws
- Identify and assess ergonomics-related hazards
- Implement measures to address those hazards, using these techniques to cut through senior management’s resistance and get money for ergonomics improvements
- Use these seven strategies to make your ergonomics program a success.