Health and safety at work is a huge topic – this section aims to provide some useful links to further reading and advice, as well as commonsense suggestions about improving office ergonomics for employers who are looking for ways to ensure that they discharge their duty of care towards employees.
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Repetitive strain injury (RSI)
According to the TUC, more than 330,000 people experience symptoms of RSI, and 5.4 million working days are lost due to the condition. Increasingly, keyboard use is identified as a significant cause. Help yourself to avoid it by making sure that your keyboard is at the correct working height, and taking regular breaks.
You can read more about products that can help in our accessible computing section.
With 4.9 million working days lost every year due to back pain, preventing back strain and injury is a clear priority. There are some sensible precautions to take:
• Find out whether any manual handling tasks can be avoided
• Use mechanised lifting where possible, or supply manual handling aids
• Train staff to use aids correctly and carry out any unavoidable lifting tasks safely
You can read more here about manual handling law. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has useful information about back care from both an employer’s and employee’s perspective on its website (the HSE website will open in a new window).
Apart from the risks involved in lifting and handling operations, poor seating is another common cause of back strain. Here are some pointers to improve the ergonomic set-up of your working environment. Wake sure that:
• Your desk/keyboard is at the right height (you should be able to rest your arms lightly on the surface of the desk
• You can rest your feet flat on the floor, or on a footrest, so that the weight of your legs is properly supported
• Use a chair with a proper backrest, to reduce pressure on the lower back. A lumbar support cushion can help if your chair doesn’t offer enough support
• Get up and walk around regularly – don’t spend hours glued to your work station!
This office chair from Mercado Medic (left) is highly adjustable to suit the individual. The seat height is controlled electrically.
For some people, a more unorthodox-looking seat, like the Bambach saddle-shaped seat (right) solves back problems by naturally putting the pelvis into the right position to preserve the natural curve of the spine.
Kneeler seats can also help to maintain correct posture, and can be adjusted to the right height for your desk or table.
A height-adjustable table, such as this one from Tough Furniture (left), has telescopic legs which allow you to adjust its height to provide the perfect working level for your individual needs.
For improving a less-than-ideal office chair, try a lumbar cushion to support the small of the back, or a wedge cushion, to gently tilt you forward by 11° into a more natural sitting position, where pressure on the lower back is relieved.
Work-related stress is a very hot topic for all employers, with stress being implicated in many illnesses, both major and minor, and an estimated 6 million working days being lost each year. Whilst a degree of stress (which varies from person to person) is stimulating and can be enjoyable, too much stress is debilitating and makes the individual affected unhappy and unproductive.
Excessive stress can be caused by various factors – it often builds up over time, with the sufferer becoming so used to feeling stressed that they ignore the symptoms until serious illness results.
Employers have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to take action on stress; there is also a specific requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 to undertake risk assessments for potential risks including stress.
Our workshop on coping with stress will be on-line here shortly.