Ergonomics is described as the dynamic relationship
between a worker and a workstation environment. The interaction
between a worker and repetitive tasks performed at a workstation,
could ultimately determine whether that worker will develop
some form of musculoskeletal disorder.
In the early 1990s, OSHA identified workplace ergonomics
as a key factor in reducing the quantity and severity of musculoskeletal
disorders associated with repetitive tasks and poorly designed
workstations. For 10 years, OSHA conducted exhaustive interviews,
workplace evaluations, and open congressional hearings to
ultimately promulgate a set of ergonomics standards designed
to hold employers accountable for implementing workstation
ergonomics. This rule which was approved by the Clinton administration,
was subsequently squashed by the Bush administration shortly
after that administration assumed power.
Politics aside, OSHA has continued to work in the direction
of sensible workstation - workplace ergonomics because the
very ideal of providing a healthy and safe workplace environment
has not abated. Many companies and organizations throughout
the United States have voluntarily complied with OSHA recommendations
that are not subject to legal enforcement. Although the ultimate
cost of ergonomics compliance was a hotly debated issue, many
businesses and professional organizations have come to realize
that a dwindling quality labor pool will put severe pressure
on corporate productivity in the years to come. As a result,
these forward thinking organizations are taking necessary
steps to implement sound, ergonomic policies to protect the
health and well being of their human resources.
Of particular interest to OSHA during the investigation of
this major workplace dilemma, was the interaction of clerical
and other computer operators with computer workstations. Two
areas of major concern are: musculoskeletal disorders involving
back pain and shoulder pain, as well as the imminent danger
of carpal tunnel syndrome. Prolonged use of the keyboard and
the mouse in a corporate environment can hasten the onset
of these disorders.
There are a number of factors to take into consideration
when designing a computer workstation. A little knowledge
of the principles of ergonomics, how people interact safely
and efficiently with machines and their work environment,
can save a lot of discomfort and maximize both productivity
- Keyboard - Be
sure to get the height right to prevent too much bend at
the wrist and allow the forearm to have some support. The
arms should hang loose to prevent the shoulder muscles from
cramping. Many keyboards can tilt; unfortunately, most of
them tilt the wrong way. If any thing the keyboard should
tilt to help the wrist stay straight, which is to say raising
the space bar end and lowering the "top"(the F1,
F2 etc.) end. Tilting the key board the other way, (space
bar lower and "top" row higher) can predispose
you to carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Mouse -
continual clicking and small, precise motions involved in
mouse use are a repetitive action that can be a health hazard.
A few basic rules can help make handling this convenient
input devise safer and more comfortable:
|Hold the mouse loosely. "White knuckling"
the mouse creates too much tension. Use a light touch
when you click.
|Use you whole arm and shoulder to move the
mouse, not just your wrist. Don't rest your forearm on
the desk while you move the mouse.
|Do not lift your "pinkie", use
all of your fingers to lightly hold the mouse.
|Keep your wrist relaxed and neutral, not
bent. The click button should be about the same height
as your keyboard.
|Avoid prolonged postures. Rotate your shoulders,
gently shake your hands and fingers four or five times
|Left handers should use a "left handed"
mouse, or configure the mouse to work best with their
different (mirror image) hand shape.
- Make enough space so that you have room to work,
especially if your pushing your mouse around. Use a paper
holder to keep letters or books semi-vertical and at eye
level. Your work space should be set up so that you need
not twist your neck. Documents should be positioned at the
same height and next to the VDT, especially if a lot of
time is to be spent at these tasks. Make your work space
- Video Terminals.
- as computer equipment is
upgraded companies are urged to employ LCD terminals were
possible. If you are still working with older CRTs, make
sure you keep your distance to reduce the amount of Electromagnetic
radiation. We generally recommend at least a good 30 inches
should be maintained.
- Seating -
chair manufacturers are paying close attention to
the needs of computer users, with the result that employers
have a wide range of choices in selecting the proper seating
arrangement for their employees. Particular care should
be bought to concerns about the adjustment capabilities
of the seating. Chair adjustments should include proper
adjustment for lumbar support for the back.
- Desk/workstation configurations
Pay close attention to
the actual configuration and height of the workstation.
To mitigate the impending danger of musculoskeletal
disorders including carpal tunnel syndrome, businesses and
professional organizations should evaluate the cost benefit
potential of employing speech recognition solutions. The proper
implementation of this technology will dramatically reduce
dependence on the use of the keyboard and the mouse. In some
cases, workers have been able to cut their dependence on the
keyboard/mouse by as much as 85%.
For data input operators and professionals
who are experiencing onsets of musculoskeletal disorders,
speech recognition might be the only available option to keep
them productive in a corporate environment.
In order to fully maximize the potential
of speech recognition technologies, companies should only
look to professionals who are certified by companies such
as Scansoft. Speech recognition software that can be purchased
in a retail setting does not generally have the application
features to truly offer a viable solution. Only the professional
series of Dragon NaturallySpeaking has the necessary ingredients
i.e. the vocabulary and speech macro command capability.
Accudata Systems, a Nuance partner, has been
certified to sell, train, and support the Dragon NaturallySpeaking
Professional series of products.
For more information regarding Accudata System's
training and support, call: