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Working posture

What's the problem?

Workers who spend their day sitting at a desk working or standing for long periods of time are prone to strains and other injuries related to posture and equipment.

 

How are workers harmed?

Working in a sitting position

Workers who spend a lot of their day seated at a desk are prone to strains and other injuries related to posture and repetitive movement.

Poor equipment design can contribute to people getting injured, such as incorrect chair height, inadequate equipment spacing or incorrect desk height.

These types of ergonomic hazards can be difficult to detect.

 

Working in a standing position

Standing for long periods can make workers fatigued and can result in back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as varicose veins.

Standing on hard concrete floors can place undue stress through feet, knees and the back. Lower body problems can range from achy joints to varicose veins.

 

What can you do?

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

  • Try to ensure workers’ arms are supported. If arms are not supported, the muscles of people’s neck and shoulders are likely to be fatigued by the end of the day.
  • Educate workers about their head position; try to keep the weight of the head directly above its base of support (neck).
  • Encourage workers not to slouch when sitting at a desk. People should use the lumbar support of their chair and avoid sitting in a way that places body weight more on one side than the other.
  • Ensure people move their chairs as close to their work desk as possible to avoid leaning and reaching. Make sure monitors are placed directly in front workers, with the top no higher than eye level. Keyboards should be directly in front of the monitor so people don’t have to frequently turn their head and neck.
  • Consider providing workers with hands free phones.
  • Ensure monitors are not too close to avoid eye strain close. It should be at least an arm’s length away.
  • Take steps to control screen glare, and make sure that the monitor is not placed in front of a window or a bright background.
  • Encourage workers to take breaks and move around where possible.
  • Provide adjustable furniture and equipment – one size does not fit all when it comes to chairs and work surfaces.
  • Ensure workers know how to use the equipment they are provided with, including how to adjust it to meet their specific needs.
  • Ensure workers wear suitable footwear.
  • Provide rubber anti-fatigue mats.

 

You need to select the most effective controls that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

 

Get your workers involved

  • Ensure your workers know how to make suggestions, ask questions or raise concerns.
  • Always ask your workers for input on identifying health and safety risks and how to eliminate or minimise them. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good decisions when they have been involved in the conversation. Your workers (including contractors and temps) are the eyes and ears of your business. They can help spot issues, and suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.
  • Always train your workers on what the key risks are and how to keep healthy and safe.

 

Find out more about getting your workers involved.

 

Where to go for more information

WorkSafe resources

 

New Zealand websites

Habitat at Work | ACC

 

International websites

Ergonomics | WorkSafe British Columbia, Canada

Human factors and ergonomics | Health and Safety Executive (HSE), UK

Last updated 17 November 2016

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