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Ergonomics: An applied science concerned with the characteristics of people that need to be considered in designing and arranging things that they use in order that people and things will interact most effectively and safely -- Webster's

Ergonomics Defined

Many work stations may require new furniture or equipment to help create a correct and ergonomic posture and work environment. TEOS is proud to offer a number of quality ergonomic products specifically designed for the office environment. The investment, though, is an intelligent one. Not only does it protect your employees or yourself from painful RSI, but it also can provide a substantial return. Consider these examples reported by Sue MacDonald found in the News Tribune:

  • Ergonomics Improve Productivity

A 1986 study by the Army Corps of Engineers documented a 20.6 percent improvement in employee productivity one year after ergonomic furniture was installed

  • Ergonomics Decrease Employee Turnover

A long-term study in Norway found employee turnover dropped to 10 percent from 40 percent after a plant installed new equipment. The company, Dainoff, realized an 852 percent return on its initial capital investment -- money saved primarily on training, recruitment and employee sickness.

  • Ergonomics Help Contain Health Care Costs

In 1990, Federal Express attacked problems of poor performance, poor equipment, stress-related injuries and spiraling health costs with new performance standards based on quality, increasing employee training and communication, and adopting stress-control and wellness programs. In the first year, there were no cases of carpal tunnel syndrome and fewer than six reported claims for stress-related illnesses.

An ergonomic workplace is an effective way to prevent injuries on the job. Ergonomics have been applied to many fields including sports, manufacturing, and the office environment. A workplace that is not ergonomic can result in repetitive strain injury (RSI) with symptoms ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome to back and neck strain. Often symptoms are less severe, such as headaches or eye strain, but the results can be costly.

Those who feel they may suffer from RSI should always consult a doctor. But this web page hopes to inform you about ergonomics and repetitive strain injury and to provide ways offices may avoid such problems.

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Repetitive Strain Injury

Dubbed "the occupational disease of the '90s," Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) results from the overuse and abuse of the hand and arm muscles. More than 60% of all workplace illnesses are attributed to RSI, and RSI-related expenses may cost U.S. businesses as much as $20 billion a year.

Much of the problem can be blamed on poor work stations which force workers to sit in uncomfortable positions, strain to see documents and monitors, or rest hands and wrists in awkward positions causing a person to twist and contort their hands and fingers to reach keyboards and mice.

Unnatural positioning at a workstation results in heavy abuse of muscles and joints causing such common problems as carpal tunnel syndrome (a debilitating injury to the wrist), back pain, neck pain, and eye strain.

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Ways to Avoid RSI

The key to avoiding Repetitive Strain Injury is prevention. A proper working environment which employs ergonomic techniques can reduce the strain of working and can protect your most valuable assets, your employees.

Many offices find that creating an ergonomic work station does not always require a lot of new furniture or a heavy financial investment. Just knowing how one should position themselves at a desk or work station often results in an efficient application of ergonomic techniques. Keys to a good working environment include:

  • posture.gif (4456 bytes)A straight back
  • A chair with a good back support
  • The top of computer screens and monitors at slightly below eye level
  • Elbows at a 90 degree angle
  • Wrists straight and well supported
  • Knees at a 90 degree angle
  • Feet flat on the floor or a foot support for shorter users

If you suffer from pain or discomfort, you should always consult a doctor. But there are also a number of suggestions for changing your work station that may help eliminate problems.

  • If you are suffering from pain and soreness in your neck, shoulder or back:
    • Raise or lower your screen
    • Raise or lower your chair
    • Adjust your seatback, angle and height
    • Consider using a telephone headset
    • Consider getting special glasses for work
  • If you are suffering from pain and soreness in your hands, wrists or arms:
    • Adjust the angle of your keyboard
    • Raise or lower your chair
    • Consider a wrist rest
    • Do not stretch for the keys when typing
  • If you are suffering from red, burning eyes, or have difficulty focusing:
    • Clean your screen
    • Adjust brightness and contrast
    • Tilt your screen to reduce reflections
    • Consider a glare screen
    • Consider using a short hood to shield your screen
    • Consider special glasses
    • Keep distance from eye to screen and hard copy about the same

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Other Sources for Learning about Ergonomics

If you would like to know more about RSI and Ergonomics in the workplace, the world wide web offers a number of valuable and informative sites. Feel free to browse these pages, but don't forget to come back to TEOS and learn about our quality ergonomic products!

  • Ergonomics at Work - An extensive collection of articles relating to office ergonomics.
  • CTDNews - Information on workplace repetitive motion and stress injuries and illnesses.
  • ErgoWeb - An extensive collection of ergonomics standards, guidelines, reference materials, biomechanical analysis tools, case studies, anthropometry data, and other ergonomics resources.
  • VDT Ergonomics: Graphic illustrations enhance this site by Karen Allen of the University of Virginia

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