Simple steps to reduce injury from poorly designed workstations

Do you, or your staff, ever complain about the following symptoms?

  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Aching in your arms and or wrists
  • Pain in your lower back, neck or shoulders
  • Fatigue

All these symptoms can be caused by incorrect Display Screen Equipment (DSE) or workstation set-up. Incorrect set-up creates poor posture and, in time, long-term or permanent injuries unless steps are taken to prevent this.

Most employees who work on computers do so for several hours a day and this may even be followed by more computer work and gaming at home.  Over time the body reacts to this repetition and starts to develop debilitating symptoms, which, untreated may cause permanent disabilities.  Everyday tasks such as carrying the shopping, children or grandchildren, doing basic household chores and even taking a shower or bath can become a challenge.  It is a miserable existence.

Increasing Sickness Absence in the Workplace

In the UK musculo-skeletal injuries are the second highest cause of sickness absence. This can create considerable problems for employers such as long-term sickness absence and pay, recruitment costs, high staff turnover, loss of production and poor business trends.

A common musculo-skeletal injury is work related upper limb disorder (WRULD), typically affecting keyboard users (and also other workers who have repetitive upper limb tasks), but when effectively managed can bring business benefits, such as;

  • Increased efficiency
  • Fewer days lost to sickness absence
  • Lower staff replacement and retraining costs
  • Reduced risk of litigation
  • Lower insurance and compensation costs

The risk of WRULDs must be effectively managed to reduce the risk of legal action and possible compensation costs.

What can employers do?

There are simple measures which employers can put in place to prevent these symptoms arising:-

  • Ensure that the workstations are correctly set up (see further details below)
  • Make sure staff take regular breaks away from the computer by rotating keyboard tasks with other non-repetitive tasks
  • Encourage staff to take refreshments and breaks away from the workstation
  • Ensure that staff take plenty of fluids, preferably water, during the day

How Occupational Health can help you

You can obtain help with the management of DSE assessments in the workplace, by seeking the advice of a specialist occupational health adviser, who will:

  • Assess the risks in your workplace , by inspecting your workplace to see which work activities may cause harm and investigating any current cases of WRULD
  • Help you to reduce the risks of WRUDs which could mean introducing changes to the work area or tools used, the way work is done, the way the work is organised (breaks and rotation) or the work environment (lighting, temperature)
  • Help you organise a structured return to work for employees who are off sick with a WRULD, where possible.

You are more likely to succeed if you:

  • Involve workers and their safety representatives early and at every stage
  • Encourage workers to report any ULD symptoms
  • Design the job to fit the worker
  • Provide information and training to all those involved

This article was written by Sue Hawkins for CLAssociates. For further information please contact:

Susan Hawkins RGN, SCPHN(OH), CMIOSH, Independent Occupational Health Adviser

Mobile: 07789234745

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