My computer makes me sick – A little reminder about safe use of equipment.

At the moment I am sitting in a comfortable and supportive chair with my arms in the right position and the display on my computer set to the right height. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would be proud of me. They could publish a photo of me as an example of how to work at a computer or Display Screen Equipment (DSE), without risking a musculoskeletal Disorder. In other words the HSE would approve my DSE policy to avoid an MSD episode. I am proud of myself right now, not only because I can use acronyms like MSD knowledgably, but because I know I am working the right way.
I have just read a rather dry, but very scary, report produced a few years ago about the dangers of working with DSE’s which states that:
• 73% of all respondents to the questionnaire survey reported one or more musculoskeletal symptom
• Slightly over half of all respondents reported symptoms affecting the head and/or eyes
When I read that I actually let out a little startled gasp. I couldn’t believe 73% of people suffered some form of discomfort or illness which is potentially caused by operating their computer. What makes this figure worse is that in some cases this is self inflicted because you probably know how you should work but if you are like me you don’t do it unless you are reminded.
Basically safety is this simple.
• Position
o Arms should be horizontal.
o Room under the workspace to move your feet
o Eyes should level with the top of the screen
o Feet should be flat on the floor without putting pressure on the legs
• Equipment
o Free from glare (including desk surfaces)
o Good chair with adequate support for the lower back
o Keyboard should be placed to allow a space for the users writs to rest when typing
o Desk should be at a height to allow the above and location free from glare on the screen
• Working practice
o Got glasses? WEAR THEM!
o Get a regular eye check (some employers may even pay for this)
o Take regular breaks
-There seems to be conflicting advice on this one but it would seem 5-10 minutes every hour or 15 minutes every 2 hours as a minimum
o Airflow. It sounds silly but offices are often over warm and lack fresh air. This is particularly true in winter when the windows are closed. Stuffy environments lead to nasty headaches
• Be alert for the warning signs. Little things which shouldn’t be ignored because they are probably warning signs include:
o Pain or stiffness in the wrists, knuckles or elbows (possible signs of repetitive strain problems from incorrect use of a mouse or keyboard)
o Stiffness or pain in your legs (check you chair position and support)
o Back and neck pain (Not to be ignored! Check all the above)
o Headaches or feeling tired (Possibly lack of air flow or a badly positioned display)
o Peering closely at the screen or leaning back to see it (possibly positioning or time for the eye test


If you are comfortable on your equipment and working correctly you will be more productive, happier and less prone to sick days.
Finally, I have one last thing for you to think about which suddenly occurred to me when writing this piece. At the end of this article is a link to a Health and Safety Executive checklist to see if you are working correctly. When you have checked your working space remember to also check your computer use (including gaming machines) at home… go on I dare you. Did it come out badly?
Thought so!

HSE safe use checklist;

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