Work Painlessly


seating-family_03 seating-family_02Technology has had a profound effect on the way we live and work. As a result, we are spending more time sitting and using computers, which has greatly increased the occurrence of related musculoskeletal disorders. This entry reviews a number of techniques for avoiding work-related, repetitive stress injuries and enhancing both the comfort and productivity levels of the workers who adopt them.
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The ultimate buzzword of the past decade is Technology. It touches nearly every corner of our lives, from media entertainment to the way we buy groceries. A quick retrospective reveals it has also had a profound impact on the way most of us work.
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Only 10 years ago, if you wanted to send or receive a fax, you got up from your desk and walked to the fax machine. Today with online faxing, a couple of keystrokes is all it takes. In days of yore, if you wanted to ask your coworker a question you would probably get up and walk to their desk or office.
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Today, however, there are several less taxing ways to communicate. E-mail and on-line messaging, in addition to sophisticated phone paging and voice mail systems, have taken the place of the leisurely stroll down the hall brandishing coffee and (only two decades ago) a cigarette.
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The result of all these changes is that we’re spending more time at our desks, and more time on our computers – a lot more time. While 90 percent of all U.S. office workers now use computers, 40 percent work on their computers at least four hours a day. But Dr. Alan Hedge, Professor of the Human Factors Laboratory at Cornell University, warns that the risk of musculoskeletal discomfort increases by using the computer as little as one hour a day. Even worse, the risk of musculoskeletal injury is nine times greater when you spend four hours a day at the computer than it is for a one-hour-a-day-user. These statistics shed some light on the growing number of work-related office injuries, and the increasing importance of ergonomics in the workplace.
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So what exactly is ergonomics? In a broad sense, office ergonomics applies science to workplace design to maximize productivity while reducing operator fatigue and discomfort. While the concept is fairly straightforward, its application is open to debate. That is why it is important to articulate the real issues facing workers in today’s office, and to debunk the misconceptions that typically surround discussions of ergonomics.
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While workers suffer from task-related injuries, employers are footing the staggering costs. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) now account for one-third of all occupational illnesses and injuries. They constitute the largest job-related illness and injury problem in the U.S. today. In 1997, employers reported a total of 626,000 lost workdays due to work-related MSDs. They pay approximately $20 billion annually in direct worker’s compensation costs and another $60 billion in indirect costs.
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The ergonomic workplace incorporates several scientifically designed products, some of which are keyboard platforms, foot machines and copy holders. All are very important in reducing MSDs in today’s office environment but good ergonomic seating will support correct sitting posture with technology advanced easy to use adjustments.
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The adjustments that need to be made to the ergonomic task chair can be confusing for the user. Seat forward, seat back, lumbar support position, back height, back tilt, seat height and seat tilt are all adjustments that need to be made correctly for the health of the worker. Sadly, most workers never take the time to adjust their chair risking discomfort, fatigue and injury.
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The Office Planning Group has become a dealer for Humanscale, a recognized leader in the field of ergonomic products for the workplace which includes their award winning Freedom chair.
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Technology can make simple things complicated or complicated things simple. We prefer the later.
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The Freedom chair is designed to give the maximum ergonomic benefit to the sitter with a minimum number of manually-adjusted controls. Once the chair is fitted, no further adjustment is required. The idea is that movement, which is essential for a healthy body, shouldn’t be constricted by locking mechanisms and manual controls. In other words, sitting comfortably isn’t something you should have to think about. www.opgtnva.com

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