Ergonomically Speaking

In recent years, we have seen an upsurge in the popularity of specially adapted, ‘ergonomic’ furniture and equipment, particularly in the workplace. ‘ergonomic’ means ‘designed for ease of use’.

Common examples of ergonomically designed equipment include:

  • Chairs designed to prevent the user from sitting in positions that may have a detrimental effect on the spine.
  • Desks with adjustable keyboard trays
  • Desktops of adjustable heights 

But have the ergonomic improvements we have made to our working conditions made any difference to the incidence of back pain? Although the overall incidence of back pain is increasing for the reasons described previously, there is some evidence to suggest that changes made in the workplace have reduced many serious occupational health risks, including back pain.

Ten ways to make your office ergonomically friendly:

  1. Make sure you’re not stretching for your keyboard and your neck is not bent.
  2. Use footrests and wrist rests if you need to.
  3. Keep your feet at right angles to your lower legs.
  4. Get your eyes checked regularly so that you are not leaning forward to read your computer screen.
  5. Make sure your chair is comfortable and can be adjusted.
  6. If possible choose a desk that can be adjusted to the right height for you.
  7. Keep your mouse next to and on the same level as your keyboard.
  8. Position your keyboard in front of the direction you look at the monitor, not off to the side.
  9. Use a telephone headset if you are on the phone constantly.
  10. Try not to sit in the same position all day long.

Accidents that take place at work also account for a substantial proportion of back complaints. If you have an accident at work, it is important that you report it using the appropriate channels. Not registering and acting on symptoms quickly enough can sometimes make you feel worse. 

Your employer or your safety representatives will be able to advise you of the accident reporting procedure where you work. It is your employer’s legal responsibility to carry out risk assessments in order to identify possible hazards associated with certain jobs. 

In some cases, using lifting and handling aids can remove or reduce the risk of back injuries. They should accommodate your needs and you should not suffer discrimination as a result of your back problems.