There is a legal requirement to employers to undertake workstation assessments for computer users and to provide them with information about the risks of prolonged computer use. There are different methods of complying including online self assessments and training. This has limited effectiveness as often people are not aware of what is the correct posture or if their chair is set up correctly. People also perform different tasks at a computer, yet many online assessments are for generic computer use.
The ‘Ergotherapy’ approach is to give employees the knowledge to understand why they can get particular aches and pains and how to avoid them. A presentation lasting around 60 minutes covers the following information:
• Outline of the regulations and employer requirements.
• Basic anatomy and mechanisms of injury, including potential risks of prolonged computer work.
• Principals of good posture and sitting.
• Advice on correct workstation set up including chair controls, screen location, use of document holders and footrests.
• Common problems and bad habits and how to avoid them.
• Importance of taking breaks and what to do if symptoms are experienced.
This is then followed by one to one assessments looking at each person in detail. This will address any existing aches and pains and improvements to the workstation setup to prevent problems in the future. Where possible changes are made at the time – such as moving equipment and adjusting the chair. If equipment is required this will be listed – it is usually the less expensive things like copy holders or footrests. New chairs are not frequently recommended, unlike other companies who take commission from chairs and equipment they recommend. Experience shows that it is usually how the chair is used rather than the chair itself.
The Manual Handling regulations (1992) require all employers to undertake a risk assessment to identify any potentially hazardous manual handling tasks within the company. Once identified these hazardous tasks should be eliminated or reduced to a satisfactory level where practical. Staff need to be made aware of the potential risks associated with these manual tasks and trained in how to handle items in a safe manner e.g. using lifting aids or following a ‘safe system of working’. This will help minimise lifting and work related injuries
Ergotherapy services include risk assessments of tasks and risk reduction recommendations, as well as manual handling training. Training is tailored to the specific tasks that are performed, rather than just the generic “lifting a box off the floor”.
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