As you strive to protect your employees while also increasing profitability in this challenging business environment, there is more focus than ever on reducing health care and workers’ compensation costs. As a safety professional, you are doing your part to cut costs. One of the best examples of how to make a big impact is in ergonomics efforts, which can prevent widespread injuries and discomfort when executed well. Although many executives do not realize it, preventing injuries and discomfort is within the grasp of every company in the world. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common injuries and how to avoid them.
Repetitive strain injuries are among the most common occupational health problems. The modern technology we use at work today is largely to blame for the frequency of these injuries, but by following some common office ergonomics tips, you and your office team can reduce risk and alleviate discomfort from repetitive strain injuries.
What Is a Repetitive Strain Injury?
A repetitive strain injury is not specific to one disorder but instead refers to the pain felt in muscles, nerves, and tendons due to repetitive movements and overuse. While repetitive strain injuries are most common in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands, they can affect any moveable part of the body.
The repetitive motions employees perform each day at their computer, on the phone, or elsewhere in the office can be the cause of overuse discomforts. Many employees may not think the way they hold their mouse or the angle of their screen causes strain, but when muscles are exposed to repeated use and strain, it can result in microscopic tears to muscles and tendons, reduced range of motion, and inflammation, which ultimately leads to symptoms including:
- Pain, ranging from mild to severe
- Extremities turning white or cold
- Muscle tightness, stiffness, cramping, or discomfort
- Clumsiness or loss of coordination
- Tingling or numbness
- Sensitivity to cold or heat
5 key tips to reduce the risk of RSI
1. Proper keyboard alignment
The first tip office ergonomic experts typically give employees is to properly set up their keyboards to allow for typing in a neutral position. With all the time spent typing emails, reports, and spreadsheets, keyboard alignment can be a big contributor to repetitive strain injuries.
2. Take breaks
Do not sit in the same position for long periods. Take advantage of the natural breaks away from your desk, such as meetings and making copies, by adding in a quick stretch or a short walk in the office. Make sure to give your eyes a break too. Look up frequently to focus a few seconds on an object at least 20 feet away.
3. Reduce mouse use
The slight movements of maneuvering a mouse can lead to wrist, hand, and neck strain. Placing the mouse at the proper height and position is the first step toward reducing strain but finding ways to reduce mouse use is another great office ergonomic tip. Use Tab to navigate form fields; learn keyboard shortcuts for common functions, such as cut and paste; and use the mouse keys feature, which allows moving the pointer around the screen with the arrow keys on a keyboard’s number pad.
4. Adjust seating
Over the course of a long workday, employees get tired. Leaning on desks or slouching should be avoided as poor posture is a leading cause for repetitive strain injuries. Employees should adjust their seats, so they sit up straight with their feet on the floor or a footstool, not leaning to the side or toward their screen.
5. See a doctor at the first signs of strain
A stiff neck, numbness in the fingers, or other upper body pain could be the result of a repetitive strain injury. Delaying diagnosis means the longer an injury goes untreated and potentially a longer recovery time. If you are in pain, don’t put it off. Take the time to get the treatment you need.
How can you reduce the cost of workplace injuries?
These office ergonomics tips are just a few of the ways employees who show early signs of injury can be more comfortable at work. Whether you are a business owner, an office manager, or oversee ergonomics for your company, it’s important to give employees tips and tools on how to prevent injury and empower them to make the changes they need. Education and making ergonomics part of your company culture is the best defense your company has to prevent repetitive strain injuries.
Sustaining that rate of zero injuries is also achievable by instilling a culture of safety throughout the entire organization. five steps below will help get you to zero and ensure you stay there. Check out Cority’s ‘5 Steps to Protecting Your Employees and Reducing the Cost of Workplace Injuries and Discomfort’ eBook to how to get to zero and ensure you stay there.