The incidence of musculoskeletal injuries associated with computer use is increasing1. Education and ergonomics interventions have been advocated as a prevention method for reducing the incidence and severity of these injuries.
Research in the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders have found a wide range of evidence to support the use of ergonomic interventions in the workplace. Researchers at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety have recently published a study, "Improvements in musculoskeletal health and computing behaviors: Effects of a macroergonomics office workplace and training intervention" to help address the escalating concern of computer use and its association with musculoskeletal and visual symptoms2. More specifically, the objective of this study is to examine the impact of a large-scale longitudinal field macroergonomics intervention on office workers' computing behaviors, postures, musculoskeletal discomfort, and their relationship to psychosocial factors compared to workspace-only and control groups.
The macroergonomics intervention consisted of 1) a new flexible office workplace with adjustable workstations and flexible overall facility layout that included a variety of focus rooms for small and large group work and meetings conveniently located throughout the workplace, 2) office ergonomics training with periodic follow-up messages that encouraged the employees to exert control over how the workplace was used. Participants were classified as knowledge workers who used a computer for 4 or more hours per day and performed fundamentally similar job tasks of preparing accounting analysis reports. A total of 1250 employees were invited by senior partners to participate in the study. These study participants were assigned to one three groups; 1) no-intervention control, 2) flexible Workplace-only, and 3) flexible Workplace plus Training. The results from this study have shown that:
- The workplace plus training group experienced a greater reduction in symptoms for the seven body parts studied.
- Both intervention groups experienced positive, significant changes in improved workstation arrangements and computing postures.
- An overall reduction in average musculoskeletal pain levels over the workday was found.
- Participants were more likely to show improvements in their computing work postures after the intervention, potentially reducing musculoskeletal risk.
The results from this study contribute to the body of evidence that supports the notion that an ergonomic intervention can have positive effects for office and computer workers.
The Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers Inc. (OHCOW) has developed an Office Ergonomics Calculator3 to provide users with a tool that can be easily implemented into any ergonomics intervention by providing the ideal measurements for an office workstation. This tool was designed with the purpose to reduce the likelihood of musculoskeletal disorders by providing users with the knowledge and guidance to adjust their workplace according to their specific body measurements. The Office Ergonomics Calculator will provide you with a list of ideal measurements for each component of your workstation including: chair height, keyboard and mouse height, and screen height. Users need to simply enter the anthropometric information and the height of your current office equipment into table 1 of the excel spreadsheet. Once you have entered each measurement, Table 2 will demonstrate whether your equipment is currently too high (-), too low (+), or perfectly situated (0). Table 3 will give you ideal measurements. Use a measuring tape to ensure that your equipment is adjusted according to the ideal measurements table.
If you are not able to position your equipment accordingly, you may need to purchase office equipment such as: a height-adjustable keyboard tray, chair or monitor. For further assistance contact a WSPS consultant.
Bohr, Paula C. "Efficacy of Office Ergonomics Education." Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, vol. 44, no. 6, 2000, pp. 696–699., https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1009464315358
Robertson, M. M., Huang, Y. H., & Lee, J. (2017). Improvements in musculoskeletal health and computing behaviors: Effects of a macroergonomics office workplace and training intervention. Applied Ergonomics, 62, 182-196. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2017.02.017