As office technology grows, it is developing its own special brand of injuries. Many of your office workers perform work that can lead to automation-related illnesses. To protect your workers and decrease your liability, you need to identify such health hazards and take measures to prevent their occurrence in your workplace.
The most common automation-related injuries are repetitive motion injuries, also known as cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs). The name stems from the fact that the injury develops over time because an employee performs the same task in the same range of motion.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common CTD. This disorder typically develops from the repetitive motions of typing and computer work. The continuous bending of the wrist causes the tendons to swell in the tunnel formed by the carpal bones and ligaments. The swelling pinches the median nerve that gives feeling to the hand. Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are burning or painful tingling in a hand or shooting pains throughout the entire arm.
There are several steps you can undertake to combat the problem of carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive motion injuries:
· Be sure workstations are ergonomically correct. The computer components need to be adjustable and every workstation should have a footrest, wrist rest, and document holder.
· Train employees how to work in an ergonomically correct manner. Their keyboard should be positioned at elbow height so that their wrists remain straight and elbows remain at a 90-degree angle while they work. The top of the monitor screen should be at, or slightly below eye level. They should sit with their backs against the chair.
· Provide adequate break times so that employees can leave their workstation for at least 15 minutes. There should be both a morning and afternoon break.
· Keep productivity requirements reasonable. Employees shouldn’t feel continually pressured to skip breaks to complete assignments.
· Rotate employees so they don’t have to perform the same motions all day.
The second most common automation-related injury is eyestrain. This results when employees stare at computer monitors all day. Some ways you can minimize the risk of vision problems include:
· Reduce florescent lighting in the work area and provide desk lamps instead.
· Use window shades to reduce glare on computer monitors.
· Provide equipment that will allow employees to place reference materials close to the computer monitor and at the same distance from their eyes.
· Train employees on the hazards of staring at computer monitors for long periods of time.
· Ask computer operators to have a yearly eye examination.
Excessive noise can also result in automation-related injuries, such as headaches and migraines. In addition, noise compromises efficiency and decreases productivity. You can reduce the effects of noisy equipment by installing heavy drapes and thick carpeting. Placing a rubber mat beneath a machine helps reduce vibrations.