Safety at Your Desk









When we think about safety at work what generally comes to mind is machinery, fire safety etc.  People normally don’t put working at a desk and safety in the same thought but they do both go hand in hand.  Ergonomics is a science that deals with designing and arranging things so that people can use them easily and safely.  Proper ergonomics while working at a desk is paramount in the effort to stay healthy and work safely.  There are a few areas that we focus on when making sure our work stations are ergonomically correct.  The following are these areas of focus:

  1. Adjusting your Chair

Sitting which is normally considered a relaxing position is actually very hard on the back.  It puts increased pressure on your spine when sitting for long periods of time.  Sitting also puts a strain on the feet, lungs, and circulatory system. To counteract these downfalls it’s important to adjust the height of the chair so that your feet rest flat on the floor.  If this is impossible due to type of chair or a person’s physique then use a foot rest.  Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and knees at the same height as the hips.  Adjust height of the armrests so they allow you to rest your arms lightly at your side and relax your shoulders while keyboarding.  Don’t use your armrests to slouch!

Last but not least apply dynamic sitting to your day.  Don’t stay in a stationary position for long periods of time.  Move and shift your body around and remember to take active breaks to alternate between sitting and standing.

  1. Monitor Placement

Proper monitor placement can reduce incidence of eye strain, shoulder fatigue and neck pain.  Position the monitor approximately arm’s length from yourself.  Tilt the screen back 10-20 degrees.  Make sure it’s positioned away from direct lighting or windows to reduce glare.  The top of the screen should be at the eye level of the user and positioned directly in front of you to reduce twisting of the neck.  Also remember to adjust the contrast and brightness to your comfort.

  1. Desktop Placement

The working height of your desk should be about elbow height for light duty desk work.  The desktop should be organized so that objects that you use frequently are closer to you to avoid reaching. Always make sure the area underneath the desk is clean and free from clutter to accommodate for your legs and to give you the ability to stretch.

  1. Keyboard and Mouse Placement

Most issues that present itself for desk users are problems in the wrist, hand and forearm.  Awkward positions and exertions expose the body to soft tissue injuries.  To prevent the development of these injuries certain adjustments should be made to your workstation.  Your keyboard should be at a height so that your shoulders can relax and allow for your arms to rest at your sides.  It may be necessary to use a keyboard tray to accommodate the proper height and distance.  Your keyboard should be close to you to prevent reaching and approximately 1-2 inches above your thighs.  Mouse should be placed adjacent to the keyboard and at the same height as the keyboard.  A moveable tray attached to the keyboard tray is beneficial in this placement.  Do not rest your hand on the mouse when you are not using it.  Put your hands in your lap when not entering data to change the elevation.

5. Lighting

Eye strain, blurred vision and burning/itching eyes can be attributed to using a Monitor with light that is not suited to it.  Normally an office environment has illumination levels of up to 100 foot-candles but according to National Standards when using a computer workstation only 18-46 foot-candles are needed.  Make sure to close blinds or drapes to reduce glare on the screen and adjust your

lighting source as well.  If you can, reduce overhead lighting and use indirect lighting where possible.  Walls should be painted without a reflective finish and in medium to darker tones.

The final exercise to remember to do is stretch, stretch, and stretch!!  The following are some simple stretches to do at your desk:

  • Stand up and sit down over and over without using your hands. You can even do this while on the phone!
  • Shrug your shoulders to release tension in your neck and shoulders.
  • Do hand circles with both your hands stretched out in front of you.
  • Stretch your hands and wrists by stretching your arms out in front of you, point your fingers to the floor and use your other hand to increase the stretch. Then do the same with your fingers pointing towards the ceiling.
  • Do a torso twist and use your grasp on the chair to assist you.
  • Extend your legs and feet out in front of you while seated so they are parallel to the floor. When extended, flex and point your toes 5 or 6 times.
  • Give yourself a big hug by crossing your arms in front of you.
  • Most importantly, breathe!! When we sit we tend to shallow breathe.  Take some time throughout the day to do some deep breathing exercises to boost your circulation and stretch out those breathing muscles.

Internet Sources

“OSH Answers Fact Sheets.”  Government of Canada, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and        Safety.  N.p., 2009.  Web. 5 Aug. 2015.

“Ministry of Labour/Ministe’re Du Travail.”  Ministry of Labour/Ministere Du Travail.  N.p., 26 Nov. 2010.      Web. 5 Aug. 2015.

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