What’s the number one cause of work absence in the UK? No, not Jeremy Kyle, or any other addictive daytime show. It’s back pain.
And to think: the cause can often be simply bad posture. The trouble is many of us are slaves to our desks. And if our workstations aren’t properly aligned with our bodies they can wreak havoc on our spines. It doesn’t help matters that we’re typically rooted ‘zombie-like’ to our computer screens for around seven or eight hours a day. During this time we can be unaware of how bad our posture is and not give our delicate spine and back muscles what they need most – regular movement. Yet it’s a problem that’s easy to put right.
Setting up your workstation correctly Are you sitting comfortably, or correctly? To reduce the risk of harm from back pain and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) follow this checklist: • Keyboard: Position directly in front of you (not offside or it will twist your spine). • Chair: Adjust to a height with your elbows level with the space bar on your keyboard. • Wrists: Keep your wrists at a 90 degree angle from your body while typing. In between typing, a palm/wrist support can help but it needs to be placed under your palms not your wrists. • Elbows: Keep by your side when using the mouse. • Shoulders: Need to be kept down, in a relaxed position. • Back: To avoid slouching, keep your back firmly against the back of the chair. A lumbar roll, giving support to your lower back can help prevent or alleviate back pain. • Feet: Ensure that your feet touch the floor and lay flat and not crossed. • Documents: These should be positioned at the same height as the screen so that you are not forced to twist your neck to view them. Dealing with back pain “The longer you’re immobile, the weaker your back muscles will become, and the more they will hurt in the long term.” This is the stark warning issued by the NHS on its back pain at work page. In most cases, the best thing that you can do to ease and prevent back pain is to be mobile and do activity that will strengthen those muscles. Walking, weight training, yoga and Pilates are effective forms of exercise for helping to prevent and treat back pain. The main thing is to try to keep mobile during the day. Experts recommend getting out of your chair every half hour to stretch and walk around for one or two minutes. This will help loosen up your ligaments, joints, muscles and tendons. Better still, take a twenty minute walk. This will help get the blood flowing and energise the spinal structures with essential nutrients.
Workers have rights to safe workstations All employers are legally responsible for assessing and reducing health risks at work. Part of that responsibility, if you have workstations, is subject to The Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 (amended 2002). This means employers must carry out an evaluation of the workstation to reduce or eliminate any harmful effects including not just back pain but eye strain and repetitive strain injury.
What is Display Screen Equipment (DSE)? Visual Display Units (VDU) or computer workstations that include a display screen such as laptops and tablets. All equipment that relates to the computer is considered part of the DSE work station including the computer, display, keyboard, mouse, desk and chair.
What DSE users are legally entitled to: • An area to work that’s well lit • A chair with an adjustable height and back rest • Frequent breaks from sitting • Yearly free eye tests paid for by the employer
Are you compliant with VDU health and safety? Check the HSE’s guide or speak to our expert advisers at Harrier UK Ltd.
Call Harrier UK Ltd on 01332 460703 to get up to date health and safety advice or have a look at www.harrieruk.com