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Ergonomics in your office


by Frank Tresnak

The application of ergonomic principles when designing or equipping workspace results in more effective employees, reduced pain and fatigue, and more successful use of employees time. If you are moving, rearranging office space, or adding new equipment to a section of your office, this Tech Tip will help you to understand the latest trends to consider in design.

No Pain, More Gain

Relieving stress and reducing pain from repetitive tasks is a focus of OSHA, and they recently issued a set of guidelines for configuring Workstations. The suggestions for proper posture when working include:

  • Aligning the Head and Neck without being twisted
  • Shoulders and arms positioned so they are bent and forearms are parallel to the floor;
  • Wrists should be straight and parallel to the floor without resting on sharp or hard edges;
  • Back is to be supported with lumbar support;
  • Thighs and Hips are parallel to the floor, and knees positioned the same height as the Hips;
  • Feet should be flat on the floor or on a footrest.
  • Regarding equipment, a keyboard platforms should hold both keyboard and mouse on the same plane, and a palm rest is recommended;
  • Workstation should adjust between 22" and 28" from the floor for optimal seating position.

In planning to accommodate the latest designs and tools to improve the work environment, here are three hot new trends in ergonomics and workstation deployments:

LED Based Lighting

LED lighting made it first foray into the specialized work environments years ago, and is now moving into mainstream commercial and residential space. Light emitting diodes ( LEDs) have been used as small indicators in many applications due to their small size and low energy use. LED lighting has many added benefits for your office, including:

  • Lower Energy Consumption: LED's Consume about 75% less energy than conventional lighting. Example: Using a 60 watt equivalent bulb as a benchmark. A Standard incandescent bulb will use 60 watts of power when lit, a Compact Fluorescent bulb producing the same light will use 14 watts, but an LED bulb will use only 6 watts.
  • Long Life: LEDs reduces your maintenance costs as their expected life is much longer. Again using the 60 watt bulb example, a standard bulb lasts 1200 hours, CFLs 10,000 hours and the LED bulb lasts 50,000 hours.
  • Reduced heat output: LEDs run much cooler that conventional or fluorescent lighting. This can reduce the energy load on air cooling systems and make office environments more comfortable. Compare BTUs emitted by type of lighting: Incandescent bulbs emit 85/hour, CFLs 30/hour, and LEDs 3/hour.
  • Go Green: LED lighting meets the green building certification program established by LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) for sustainable green construction. LED bulbs have no hazardous materials to process when disposed, where CFLs have about 5mg of mercury in each bulb.
  • Directional Capabilities: LED lighting is directional, so it has advantages in task lighting and focused light for a desktop or work area, with a range of color temperature available from "warm white" to pure white lighting. The output is listed in degrees Kelvin, with the higher the number the more "white" the output appears.

Multiple Monitors -

Having two (or more) monitors allow the user to run and view multiple programs at the same time, reducing the need to print documents and allow for easier comparisons in sets of data. Reductions in screen switching can result in increased productivity. In a study done by the University of Utah, multi-monitor deployments have lead to 18% faster editing of multiple tasks, 45% easier task tracking, 19% improvement in recovery from mistakes and 38% increase in ability to move sources of information around.

To accommodate multiple monitors, companies have used Monitor arms which remove the monitor from the desktop and mount it on articulated arm(s). As Carol Keogh, owner of Ergonomic Solutions (www.esiergo.com) stated, "This monitor arm solution places the monitor closer or farther from the user as needs dictate, with a simple adjustment if more than one viewer needs to see the screen. Arms allow for removal from the work space when not needed, increasing your work area."

Height Adjustability -

Recent studies have touted the advantages of changing body positions multiple times during your work day to reduce repetitive stress injury, improve blood circulation, add comfort and increase fitness. Many companies have adopted workstations where the employee can stand a portion of the day, with the furniture and computer equipment able to be raised/lowered to allow for movement and comfortable positioning.

Federal and state regulations have been developed and are now in place regarding ergonomics to protect the employee from repetitive motion injuries. If you are remodeling or moving, make sure you are in the know about your local regulations and in compliance with them.

In addition, be sure to consult with your office ergonomics professional when equipping your workspace for the future.

- published in APA Paytech July 201

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