Are you sitting comfortably?
The good news is that the level of musculoskeletal disorders at work recorded by the HSE has been decreasing gradually in recent years*, mainly due to the awareness of employers to offer DSE assessments and education on how these types of injuries can be avoided. The most common symptoms include headaches, eye discomfort and neck pain as well as backache and shoulder pain. Significant issues could lead to time off work and lasting injuries**. Increasing work with VDU’s, Visual Display Units or DSE’s, Display Screen Equipment means all colleagues need to be aware of how they can look after themselves and their responsibilities at work to do so. To help we’ve put together the top ten things to look out for if you regularly sit at a workstation.
Ten tips colleagues should follow to reduce workstation stress and injuries.
1: Get the right chair – You need a chair that’s adjustable, ideally with lumbar support to support your back. Everyone’s back is different so every chair should match their requirements. If you have a hot desk policy make sure colleagues adjust their workstation before they begin.
2: Check the chair position – Your arms and wrists should be in a straight line parallel to the desk. The height of the chair should be set so that feet are on the floor and hips are at least if not more than 90 degrees when seated.
3: Measure the depth of the seat – This bit often gets forgotten but it’s just as important. It can cause fluid retention, circulation problems and knee issues if not considered. You should be able to put 3-4 fingers in width between the back of the knee and the edge of the seat.
4: Line up with the desk – Elbows should sit relaxed at least if not slightly more than 90 degrees. There should be no pressure point along the arm as it rests on the desk.
5: Protect your eyes – You should be an arms length away from the screen with your eyeline level with the top third of the screen. Around a 45 degree angle looking down to the middle of the screen is ideal.
6: Adjust the brightness – Make sure your screen brightness and contrast settings are correct. Use a screen shade if you need to.
7: Keep your feet on the ground – If feet are not firmly flat on the floor then use a foot rest so that the hips and knees are at the right angle.
8: Don’t forget about reach – Make sure everything is within reach. You don’t want to be stretching over to answer the telephone or move the mouse, putting pressure on your lower back.
9: Be aware of any problems – Existing back or musculoskeletal issues need to be addressed. If you are returning to work or your circumstances change then a DSE assessment should be carried out again. Pregnancy can be one circumstance where extra support is needed. Make sure you know how to ask for an assessment.
10: Using laptops – Plugging into a docking station and using a full-sized keyboard and mouse where possible, can help ensure that you are set up as near to your normal working position as possible. It can help reduce the amount of stress you place on wrists, manage reflection and minimise neck ache.
* Musculoskeletal Disorders in Great Britain 2013, Health and Safety Executive, www.hse.gov.uk/statistics
** RR561 Better display screen equipment work-related ill health data, www.hse.gov.uk/research