Posture and Comfort

by Hugh Babington Smith

Common questions

  1. What are ergonomics?
  2. What are office ergonomics?
  3. What are my responsibilities towards office ergonomics?
  4. What are the DSE regulations?
  5. What is Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and what are the dangers?
  6. What can people do to help themselves?
  7. Is ergonomic equipment worth buying?
  8. Can we do everything in-house?
  9. What height should my desk be? Do I need a foot rest?
  10. How do I go about complying if I have been given the responsibility for workplace ergonomics?
  11. Why do people still complain even when the company has followed the regulations?
  12. What can I do to help people?
  13. Why, when I buy equipment, does it not make people happy?

 

1. What are ergonomics?

Ergonomics, as defined by the Ergonomics Society (the professional association of ergonomists), is ‘the application of scientific information concerning humans to the design of objects, systems and environment for human use.’

As a discipline, it originated in World War II, when scientists developing new equipment realised the importance of considering the user.

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2. What are office ergonomics?

It is the term used to cover safe working in the office. It tends to include the general environment, especially light and air, the immediate workstation and all its equipment, and the relationship of the individual to the workstation. It does not have an official definition!

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3. What are my responsibilities towards office ergonomics?

Responsibilities are governed by health and safety law, in particular the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 as amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002.

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Posture is very personal. It is all too easy, when carrying out managerial duties, to trespass on what the employee may see as being their privacy; this can cause resentment which, because it is private, may be suppressed.

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4. What are the DSE regulations?

DSE is an acronym for Display Screen Equipment. The regulations cover such areas as

  • Adequate training and information
  • Proper breaks or changes of activity
  • Providing work stations suitable for employees which meet, where necessary, the standards in the schedule
  • Eye tests, if employees request them.

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5. What is Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and what are the dangers?

RSI/Repetitive Strain Injury is a term which covers in the region of twenty different conditions. It is what it says it is: an injury that arises through strain that has been repeated. Contrary to belief, RSI is not confined to hands and wrists.

See What is posture? and Glossary

6. What can people do to help themselves?

A lot: take control, listen to the body and take action.

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7. Is ergonomic equipment worth buying?

In principle, yes, but simply buying such equipment is not enough. Because it affects the way we move and operate, ergonomic equipment can potentially result in damage, so it is important to get training in its use.

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8. Can we do everything in-house?

Would you do eye-tests yourself? There are some things where it is better to get a an expert.

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9. What height should my desk be? Do I need a foot rest?

Simple questions, complex answers; there are no rules, as we are all different. Most people are happy with most furniture, especially if the information and advice are applied sensibly.

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10. How do I go about complying if I have been given the responsibility for workplace ergonomics?

Understand the relevant regulations, the aim of the legislation, and the risks to musculoskeletal health and how to reduce them.

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Ensure that the person carrying out assessments is suitably qualified.

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11. Why do people still complain even when the company has followed the regulations?

Are they complaining? If so, the aim has not been achieved, which is a management matter.

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Or are they fulfilling their duty to tell the company that something is hurting?

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12. What can I do to help people?

Take the horse to water so that it may drink. Posture is so personal, that they have to help themselves.

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13. Why, when I buy equipment, does it not make people happy?

It may not be the right equipment, or it may have been bought for the wrong reasons.

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