Prevention should be the primary focus of all Health & Safety programs. Job design, work practices, rest breaks, health and fitness all relate to injury prevention.
Job Design, Supervision and Work Practices
Prevention should be the primary focus of all Health & Safety programs. These strategies will need to include elements of:
- job design
- work organisation
- supervision and training
- the role of the individual and
- the ergonomic design of the workstation.
Managers and Supervisors are encouraged to:
- Ensure that all job descriptions of staff incorporate a variety of tasks which allow variation in movement and posture. A mix of repetitive or static work, and non repetitive work should be included so that recovery from any muscle fatigue is made possible.
- Endeavour to ensure that no employee is required to continually type or enter data for more than 5 hours per day. Where the job involves a major component of keyboard work, or other tasks using the same muscle group, frequent rest breaks should be taken. This structuring of the task should be a matter of discussion and agreement between individuals and their supervisors.
- Allow an adjustment period to the work rates after work absences or during a learning period.
Employees are encouraged to:
- Report any physical discomfort they believe is associated with their work to their Supervisor or Manager.
Rest breaks can range from short pauses to defined breaks such as lunch.
Short Pause Breaks
These are short breaks that provide an opportunity for muscles that have been active in keyboard or mouse use to rest and recover and muscles which have been fixed such as shoulder muscles or leg muscles to move.
Short Pause Break activities include:
- Answering the phone
- Collecting a document from the printer
- Getting a cup of tea or glass of water
- Visiting a colleague rather than phoning or emailing them.
Where a variety of alternative tasks are not available, it is important to have more breaks away from the task. The length of these and how often they are taken depends on the work, the person and other factors however it is important to note that frequent short pauses are preferable to infrequent longer pauses.
Doing exercises during breaks can provide a variety of postural changes and movement for muscles during periods of intense work. These exercises may be useful where there are no alternative tasks available. Exercises should be gentle stretches which provide rest for frequently used muscles and movement for muscles which have been static. The best exercise is usually to get up from a seated position and move around.
Health and Fitness
Your general state of health can affect your comfort and safety when working at a computer. Studies show that a variety of health conditions may increase the risk of discomfort, muscle and joint disorders and injuries.
Exercising regularly helps to improve physical fitness and avoid adverse health conditions. It also assists the body to better cope with unexpected increased demands such as prolonged static postures or an unexpected excessive reach or manual handling task.
Personal Tolerance Levels and Limits
All computer users have different levels of tolerance for intensive work over a long period. Those who have pre-existing health conditions should be particularly careful to avoid exceeding personal tolerance levels.