|A safe and healthy workplace is essential for every business. Ensuring that your employees are protected from various hazards is important as they are the most valuable asset in your business.
Office personnel are likely to develop accumulative type injuries. Usually from sitting for too long, sometimes standing for too long, being at the keyboard for too long, not having their workstation set up properly for them, inadequate breaks and limited variety of tasks. Of course other injuries occur in all workplaces when the workplace has hazards like steps where there should be no steps, other tripping hazards, poor lighting, faulty equipment or poorly maintained equipment, having enough room for workers to move around freely without bumping into things etc.
We can come into the workplace and assess each individual and teach them how to lift, push, pull and do all the tasks that they are required to do in their job safely.This program is very helpfulespecially indutrie where heavy lifting and loading is involved.Programs can then be designed with the worker’s tasks in mind in order to help them to be able to perform their tasks safely and effectively.
You can also integrate a physiotherapist designed program for your workers to follow in order to maintain their strength, mobility and endurance for the tasks that they need to perform.
All of these strategies may help to not only improve your employees performance but can help to avoid compensation claims from injury.
A.ERGONOMIC COMPUTER SETUP
Importance of ergonomic computer setup
Maintaining correct posture whilst sitting at a computer is extremely important to minimize stress on the spine and reduce the likelihood of injury. This is particularly important due to the high prevalence of injuries in society due to poor ergonomic computer setup, long hours of work in front of a computer and a sedentary lifestyle. Low back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and headaches are all common injuries that can occur from having your office, desk or computer set up incorrectly
When sitting at your desk the following ergonomic points should be considered:
How to create an ergonomic computer setup
When sitting at a computer desk, the goal is to organize your environment ergonomically so you can easily maintain correct posture. The following ergonomic points should be considered:
Ergonomic computer setup summary
For a detailed summary of the key points to improve ergonomic computer setup and prevent office related injuries contact us
Physiotherapy Products to assist with Ergonomic Computer Setup and office related injuries
B.MOBILE PHONE ERGONOMICS
With more and more people owning smartphones and spending greater amounts of time texting, tweeting, emailing, using social media sites (such as facebook), e-reading and surfing the net, physiotherapists are seeing a significant increase in mobile phone and hand-held device related injuries.
Some of the most common injuries relating to excessive mobile phone use and poor mobile phone ergonomics include;
- Cervical Postural Syndrome (neck)
- Thoracic Postural Syndrome (mid back)
- Lumbar Postural Syndrome (lower back)
- Cervical Disc Bulge (neck)
- Thoracic Disc Bulge (mid back)
- Cervicogenic Headache
- Thumb Tendonitis
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Wrist Tendonitis
In addition to the common overuse and posture related injuries, there is also the risk of acute injuries sustained from using mobile phones in at risk situations (requiring your full attention), such as whilst driving or walking (particularly on uneven surfaces). It is important to be aware of the risks associated with using a mobile phone or hand-held device and to take healthy steps and safety measures to avoid potential injury. Below are our top occupational health and safety ergonomic tips for smartphone users.
Mobile Phone Injury Prevention Tips
Correct Posture & Ergonomic Tips
The posture often assumed whilst using a mobile device (i.e. slouched over a tiny screen using thumbs to type) is unnatural and can result in a number of overuse and posture-related aches and pains. The spine is not designed to be held in awkward postures for long periods of time and our thumbs are not made to do such repetitive tasks, over long periods of time, in such a small area. Here are some healthy posture and ergonomic tips for using a mobile device:
- Alternate between using your thumbs and other fingers to type. Whenever possible, use your fingers to type instead of your thumbs. This can be achieved by placing your phone down on a hard surface if you’re texting (the surface should be positioned to encourage optimal spinal posture, i.e. a straight back and neck), or holding the phone in one hand (at eye level or slightly below) and texting with the other (as opposed to using one hand only).
- If using your thumbs to type, use the pad of your thumb as opposed to the tip of the thumb, as this can create an awkward bent position for your thumb which can lead to potential injury.
- Keep your wrists relaxed and as straight as possible. Minimise the strain on your wrists, fingers and thumbs by using a neutral grip when holding your device. A neutral grip is achieved when the wrist is relatively straight (or bent backwards slightly i.e. up to 30 degrees) and not bent in any other direction. If you keep your wrists bent excessively whilst using a mobile device your fingers and/or thumbs have to work a lot harder than with a neutral grip.
- Maintain an upright spinal posture when texting. Avoid looking down as this bends the neck and tends to round the shoulders. This can ultimately lead to neck, shoulder or upper back pain. Avoid holding the phone in your lap or below chest height. Try to maintain the phone at your chest, chin or eye level to minimize the bend in your neck and to maintain optimal posture. If your phone is below eye level, look down with your eyes rather than your neck.
- Avoid using the phone to one side of the body with the neck rotated.
Why maintain correct posture?
When maintaining correct posture, the joints, ligaments and muscles of the neck and back are positioned optimally so they are under minimal stress. Maintaining this position reduces the likelihood of back or neck injury, which is vital in today’s society where spinal and postural pain are prevalent. Maintaining correct postural alignment helps those suffering from neck or back pain, by reducing stress on injured structures, thereby speeding healing. Furthermore, this optimal spinal position enables your muscles to generate force more efficiently which improves performance in sporting or recreational activities.
Can I change my posture?
Many people have poor postural habits that have developed over a long period of time. Due to these habits, joints gradually tighten up, restricting spinal movement and affecting posture. As a result, obtaining correct postural alignment often feels difficult and unnatural. This can be changed with practice.
Figure 1 – Poor Sitting Posture
Figure 2 – Poor Standing Posture
The more time you spend maintaining correct posture, the easier it becomes. This occurs for two main reasons. Firstly, your joints and muscles loosen up with maintaining this optimal spinal position so that there is less resistance from your body. Secondly, your muscle ‘memory’ improves over time, so that with enough practice, maintaining this position occurs more naturally.
It is important to remember that your ability to maintain correct postural alignment won’t develop over night. Every time you find yourself slouching, don’t give up, just think of it as a time you can correct your position and do something productive, thereby gradually breaking bad habits.
What is correct posture?
As a general rule, correct posture (or optimal spinal alignment) can be achieved by ensuring there is a straight line from your ears, to your shoulders, to your hips. Think about maintaining a tall, long spine as though a piece of string is pulling your head toward the ceiling (figure 3).
Figure 3 – Correct Standing Posture
Postural Taping/posture corrector can be an excellent method to encourage optimal spinal alignment and can help educate individuals as to how to maintain this position during general activity. The goal with postural taping is to keep tension off the tape at all times therefore ensuring good spinal alignment is being maintained. A posture corrector may also be used in a similar manner.
Here are some recommendations on how to achieve optimal spinal alignment in various positions:
In sitting, it is important to have an ergonomic chair which offers firm support thereby allowing your body to maintain correct posture. Your bottom should be situated at the back of the chair and a lumbar support should be placed in the small of your back to assist with maintaining optimal spinal alignment. Your shoulders should be held back slightly and your chin should be tucked in a little (figure 4). The height of the chair should allow your hips and knees to be at right angles (it is important not to have your knees higher than the level of your hips as this may encourage slouching).
Figure 4 – Correct Sitting Posture
When sitting at a computer desk, the goal is to organize your environment so you can easily maintain correct posture (figure 5). Provided you can touch type, your keyboard should be as close to you as possible, encouraging you to maintain this position. If you have to look at the keys, it should be as close as possible so you can look down at the keys (using your eyes only) without having to bend your neck. Your mouse, telephone and other accessories should be as close as possible to prevent you having to lean forwards to reach them. Your computer monitor should be positioned directly in front of you, at or slightly below eye level to assist with maintaining the optimal neck position.
Figure 5 – Office Setup for Correct Posture
Your chair should also be as close to the desk as possible.Regular breaks from sitting are recommended with standing, walking or lying and should occur regularly enough to prevent any onset of posture related pain.
The following images shows clearly how to achieve optimal spinal alignment in lying;
Why is safe lifting important?
One of the most common causes of lower back injury is inappropriate lifting technique. Safe lifting, by ensuring correct lifting technique, is vital to minimize stress on the spine, therefore reducing the likelihood of lower back injury and lower back pain. Safe Lifting is particularly important due to the high prevalence of lower back pain in society. Appropriate lifting technique can also help to strengthen your thighs, buttocks and lower back muscles, improve posture and burn more calories.
How to lift safely
The following key points should be followed whenever lifting to ensure safety and minimize the risk of injury (figure 1):
Figure 1 – Safe Lifting Technique
Safe lifting key points
- Get your body as close as possible to the object to be lifted
- Position your feet at least shoulder width apart for stability
- Bend your knees to pick up the object, keeping your back straight
- Maintain a nice ‘long’, straight spine throughout the lift
- Never lift anything that is too heavy
- Always ask for assistance with lifting wherever possible
- Try to minimize the distance and the period of time you are lifting or carrying the object
- Use appropriate tools to help with lifting and transporting heavy objects (e.g. trolleys etc.)
- Where possible, try to reduce the weight of the object being lifted or carried so that you can perform several smaller safe lifts, rather than one heavy unsafe lift
- Never lift any object that causes pain
- Avoid lifting anything after a period of prolonged sitting, driving or bending forwards (e.g. gardening, weeding etc)
- Perform appropriate exercises before and after lifting and as a break from repetitive lifting
- Postural Taping/back support may be of benefit to encourage correct posture whilst lifting and to teach correct lifting technique
E.CHOOSING A SCHOOL BAG
Increasing numbers of school children are reporting spinal pain in clinical practice. Sometimes this can go unnoticed or may be overlooked until it is too late. One of the major causes of back pain in younger age groups is carrying excessive loads to and from school in an ill-fitted or inappropriate school backpack. Recent research has shown a relationship between school bag loads, posture problems and spinal pain.
Choosing an appropriate school bag, having it fitted correctly and wearing it properly is extremely important to ensure healthy development of your child’s spine. A poorly fitted, inappropriately worn or excessively heavy school bag can cause a number of health issues for your child – potentially leading to problems later in life. Any of these issues, particularly when combined with over 12 years of schooling, can lead to such health and spinal problems as scoliosis, kyphosis, neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, lower back pain and poor posture.
Posture problems and spinal pain in children and adolescents have the potential to lead to permanent spinal damage in later years. However, many of these issues can be prevented by following some simple steps when choosing, and wearing, a school bag.
School Bag Tips for Good Spinal Health:
- If your child complains of back, neck or shoulder pain, or, you notice that their posture is poor (figure 1), it may be that their school backpack is inappropriate or not being worn correctly. In these instances, seeing your physiotherapist for a school bag assessment and spinal check, along with appropriate advice, is vital to hasten recovery, prevent further injury and avoid permanent spinal damage.
Figure 1 – Poor Standing Posture
- If your child complains that their school bag is too heavy – it probably is. Try to reduce the load of the contents.
- Limit the load of your child’s school bag – help them to plan ahead so that they don’t carry too much. Encourage your child to store books in their school locker, and only bring home those needed for homework. Regularly clean out the backpack, as your child may be carrying unnecessary items.
- In the event that your child is unable to avoid carrying a heavy load, try to limit the distance that they will have to carry it.
- Ideally keep your child’s backpack to less than 5kg and never allow them to carry more than 10 per cent of their bodyweight.
- Pack heavy items closest to the spine.
- Make sure packed items can’t move around during transit – use the backpack’s compartments to keep things in their appropriate place.
- Take regular short rests when carrying a heavy backpack, particularly if it is over long distances.
- Never carry a school bag in one hand by the straps or wear it slung over one shoulder. Always wear the backpack over both shoulders with the straps fitted firmly and comfortably. Don’t allow your child to wear the backpack hanging low off their shoulders or down around their buttocks.
- Try to maintain good posture when carrying a school bag (figure 2). Don’t slouch!
Figure 2 – Optimal Standing Posture
- Teach your child correct lifting and carrying techniques.
- When choosing a school bag, choose a backpack (rather than a traditional school bag with handles) that incorporates positive design features which limit the load that children have to carry.
Choosing a School Bag
When choosing a school bag the following tips and design features should be considered:
- Opt for a backpack with two even straps which allow the weight of the load to be distributed evenly over the body. Bags with only one strap can cause injury to the shoulder, back and neck from uneven load distribution.
- The centre of mass of the bag should be at waist height.
- Choose a bag that fits your child and is appropriate to their body size. It should rest comfortably against their back. Avoid bags that are wider than your child.
- The bag should have adjustable buckles or straps to lower or lift the pack into the appropriate position.
- Choose a backpack with a moulded frame and an adjustable waist belt, so that the weight of the backpack can rest on your child’s pelvis instead of their shoulders and spine.
- The waist belt will also help keep the bag close to the body and in place when moving around.
- All straps should ideally be padded and wide to help distribute the weight of the bag more evenly and over a larger area. This should include both the shoulder straps and the waist belt.
- The bag should also be padded where it touches the back.
More Tips on Choosing a School Bag
- The bag should feature separate storage compartments to allow for heavy items to be packed close to the body.
- The bag should be made of firm material to prevent sagging.
- The bag should be lightweight and as small as possible whilst still practical. Larger bags may encourage your child to pack more than is needed.
- Look for a backpack which is endorsed by a professional organisation.
- Children are fashion conscious and are vulnerable to peer pressure, so ensure your child is involved in the decision process when you are buying their backpack. If the backpack you choose is ‘uncool’, your child may compensate by carrying it in a ‘cool’ way, such as having it hang down around their buttocks or slung over one shoulder.
Choosing a School Bag Summary
- Increasing numbers of school children are reporting spinal pain in clinical practice.
- Inappropriate or poorly fitted school bags are a common cause of back, neck and shoulder injuries, as well as, poor posture.
- These injuries can lead to permanent spinal damage and ongoing problems in later life if not addressed.
- Choosing an appropriate school backpack that is fitted to your child, is comfortable, encourages reduced load on the spine and enables even distribution of the load is vital to prevent injury and maintain good spinal health.
- Actively maintaining good posture when carrying the bag and keeping the weight carried to a minimum (ideally less than 10% of body weight) is extremely important to avoid injury.
- Don’t allow your child’s spinal pain or poor posture to go unchecked by an appropriate health professional.
Physiotherapy Products to assist with posture related injuries
- Posture Supports
- Lumbar Rolls (for sitting)
- Back Braces
- Therapeutic Pillows
- Posture corrector
- Sports Tape (for postural taping)