5 January 2009
Personal Computers and Laptops are now very common in the workplace and even at home. However, unless they are used with care we may be causing health problems for ourselves.
These problems include minor skin irritations, headaches, migraine and problems with eyesight, upper limb limb disorders or back pain, as well as stress or visual fatigue.
Make sure your desk area is arranged to suit you. The best place for your screen is directly in front of you, otherwise you may suffer pain and stiffness in the neck muscles. This will also help reduce headaches and lower back pain. The correct viewing position is that with the screen directly in front of you, your gaze should naturally fall between the top of the screen and the top of the display terminal itself. You should have a clear line of sight above the terminal.
Position your terminal at a comfortable viewing distance, at the maximum distance from your eyes as is comfortable. Make sure that reflections from the sun or lights are eliminated by the use of blinds, repositioning of the terminal or the use of an anti-glare screen. Ensure the light around your workstation is not too bright and adjust it where possible.
Keep your work area tidy and uncluttered and put the keyboard directly in front of you. Ideally it should be a short distance from the edge of the desk and your arms should not stretch in order to use it. With your fingers placed on the keyboard, your upper arm and lower arm should form a right angle at the elbow joint.
If you move to another desk take time to adjust the work area to suit your personal needs.
A common problem that can be suffered by anyone using a keyboard regularly is Work Related Upper Limb Disorders (WRULD) that includes complaints like Tennis Elbow, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tenosynovitis.
Adjust your chair so that you have enough room between the desk and your legs and that your feet are on the ground, or supported by an adequate footrest. Ensure your lower back is fully supported by the backrest of the chair.
Do not slouch in your seat, this will avoid aches and pains in the lower back, arms and neck area. Bad posture can cause trapped nerves etc which can lead to loss of feeling or tingling in hands and wrists, headaches nausea and permanent damage. Faulty or damaged chairs should not be used under any circumstances and immediately reported to your manager.
When working from hard copy, you must use a document holder that should be placed alongside the screen to ensure minimum need for re-focusing, which can lead to eye fatigue.
The image on the screen must not flicker. On rare occasions this could induce an epileptic seizure in someone suffering from photosensitive epilepsy.
The colours used for the desktop image (wallpaper) and program windows should be restful for the eyes and not cause flashing or strobing. If using Microsoft Windows the default colour scheme is usually best, as the colours are restful to the eyes and allow longer continuous viewing of the screen.
When you have the opportunity look away from the screen at a distant object to help rest your eyes. This will help reduce fatigue and avoid eyestrain.
Have regular full eye tests. As well as checking your vision an eye test will give an indication of other health problems you may not be aware of such as diabetes or glaucoma.
If you are pregnant ensure you take regular breaks away from the terminal and ensure changes of activity throughout the day, in order to allow physical movement. Remaining seated for long lengths of time does not help posture, places pressure upon the pelvic area and can create problems.
You screen and keyboard should be cleaned regularly to remove the build up of dust that can contribute to dry eyes and skin on the face. Static build up attracts dust in the air and can cause dryness and even skin rashes.
The Health and Safety Executive recommend that rest breaks should be taken before you start to feel tired. Any activity like standing up at your desk, making the tea, can help to avoid tiredness, stress, headache and sore eyes.