Reducing Office Repetitive Trauma Injuries

When most people think about working in an office, they don’t expect to get injured. Yet the reality is that there are potential hazards associated with any workplace, even in a comfortable, climate-controlled, well-lit office. Each year employees incur disabling injuries from office incidents.

Repetitive trauma, along with slips and falls and manual materials handling, are the leading causes of office injuries. Employees who work with computers for any significant length of time can experience discomfort and chronic pain from repetitive trauma injuries.

Training employees on basic ergonomic principles and providing well-designed workstations can help prevent these types of injuries. Remind employees to follow these guidelines while at work:

  • Keep frequently used items within an arm’s length.  
  • Place the mouse at the same height as the keyboard.
  • Position the top of the screen at or slightly below eye level.
  • Use an adjustable document holder, and keep it at the same height and distance as the screen.
  • Keep hands, wrists, and forearms straight and roughly parallel to the floor.
  • Use a well-padded seat, and support your thighs and hips by keeping them roughly parallel to the floor.
  • Support your feet by placing them on the floor or a footrest.
  • Support your back by using the chair back rest and sitting vertically or leaning back slightly.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body and bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed, and see that your upper arms hang normally at your sides.
  • Keep your head level or bent slightly forward, and sit facing forward.
  • Keep your knees at about the same height as your hips, with your feet planted slightly forward.
  • If you also spend a significant amount of time on the telephone, request a headset. Awkward postures, such as constantly cradling the phone between the head and shoulder, can result in muscle tension or fatigue.
  • Take short “micro breaks” to stretch and reposition your body.

Check workstations and reinforce these guidelines with employees on a regular basis. While computer work may be part of an employee’s daily routine, discomfort and pain should not be. 

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The illustrations, instructions, and principles in this material are general in scope and, to the best of our knowledge, current at the time of publication. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations nor to identify all potential risks or requirements.