Ergonomics guide helps prevent workplace injuries

Monday, April 6, 2020

Now that many of us are having to sit at an improvised home desk station for a prolonged period of time, it may be a good time to verify if it's set up well. If your workspace is not optimized, chances are that you may experience at least one of the following issues: sore shoulders, neck pain, back pain, eye strain, or repetitive wrist strain.

However, small changes can translate into big differences when it comes to preventing sore necks, back pain and other musculoskeletal injuries. That’s why the Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders (CRE-MSD) has developed a definitive guide on how best to stay safe and healthy at work; it forms part of the broader MSD Prevention Guideline.

Musculoskeletal injuries can affect many parts and tissues of the body, including muscles, tendons, ligaments, bone and nerves. In 2018, there were more than 260,000 work-related injury claims, according to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada.

Steven Fisher.

“Working at a desk may not be as dangerous as some other types of work, but doing anything for a prolonged period of time can cause injury, and office jobs are no exception,” said Steven Fischer, a CRE-MSD researcher and professor in Kinesiology. “Fortunately, most desk-related pain and injury is preventable if you catch it early enough.”

Usually, making adjustments to the height of your monitor, desk and chair, and adjusting your posture or stepping away from the desk can go a long way toward preventing injury, Fischer said.

Here are some workplace fixes from the Office MSD Prevention Guideline:

  1. CHANGE IT UP: MOVE - There is no single correct working position that fits everybody’s work tasks and body and allows comfort for extended periods of time.
  2. SUPPORT: REDUCE FATIGUE BY SUPPORTING YOUR BODY - Support the back and legs in comfortable working postures with a chair, foot support or stool.
  3. SUPPORT: REDUCE FATIGUE BY SUPPORTING YOUR ARMS - Support the arms and shoulders in comfortable working postures with chair armrests or the work surface.
  4. SEE: YOUR BODY FOLLOWS YOUR EYES - The head and trunk can be pulled into awkward positions when workers strain to see their work. Get regular vision tests. Set up the workspace to allow unobstructed, vision of the screen and task.
  5. REACH: KEEP IT CLOSE - Reduce long or awkward reaches for the keyboard, mouse or phone to decrease fatigue and discomfort.