Common Office Injuries
Musculoskeletal problems are common in the workplace. Your musculoskeletal system is made up of the structures that support you and help you move, such as bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Examples of musculoskeletal problems that may be related to ergonomic issues are:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Muscle strains, often affecting the neck, upper back, lower back, and shoulders.
- Tendon injury.
Symptoms can include pain in your:
- Hand, wrist, or arms.
- Neck and shoulders.
What you can do
Good posture at work can help prevent musculoskeletal injuries.
- Stand tall.
Keep the natural curves in your back. Slouching increases stress on your back and can also make you feel less energetic.
- If you stand for long periods, change your position periodically.
Try putting one foot up on a low stool.
- Bring reading material up to you.
Try to not lean over a low desk.
- Use good sitting posture.
Relax your shoulders, keep your feet flat on the floor, and avoid leaning close to tasks on your desk.
- Turn your whole body to your task instead of twisting.
Here are some ways you can help prevent falls at work.
- Keep walkways clear of cords, clutter, and spills.
- Close drawers completely after you use them.
- Use stepladders instead of chairs to reach high objects.
- Report any hazards such as loose carpeting or burned-out lights.
- Wear shoes appropriate to your job and environment.
Vision-related problems are common in the workplace.
Typical problems include:
- Eye problems from either too little or too much lighting. Poor lighting can lead to:
- Eyestrain and irritation.
- Watery eyes and red, swollen eyelids.
- Double vision.
- Decrease in the ability to focus the eyes and see clearly.
- Headaches from straining to see clearly.
- Neck and back pains due to hunching over to see small items.
- Accidents due to poor lighting, glare, shadows from lighting, or moving from a well-lighted area to a dark area.
What you can do
You can reduce your risk of vision problems from improper lighting with:
- Full-spectrum lights, which may help reduce eyestrain.
- Task lighting (such as lights above your workstation or on your desk). This can increase the level of light in your office and allow you the flexibility to position the light where it is needed most.
- Monitor screens that reduce glare, such as plasma screens or removable glare guards.
- Proper placement of computer screens. Do not place a computer screen in front of or next to a window. This creates a contrast problem and visual stress. If you do sit next to a window, the best placement for your monitor is at a right (90-degree) angle to the window.
- Window blinds or tinted glass, to reduce sun glare while still allowing filtered light into your office.
It's also a good idea to have an eye exam every 1 or 2 years. If you wear bifocals or reading glasses, you may want to adjust your monitor so that you don't have to tilt your head back to see clearly. Or consider full-frame reading glasses for computer use. There are also progressive lenses available that have a reading prescription at the bottom, a mid-distance prescription that is good for computer use in the middle of the lens, and a long-distance prescription at the top of the lens. The lens has these three types of prescriptions in different areas of the glass and smooth transitions between types of prescriptions.
Hearing problems are common in the workplace.
Noise can produce tension and stress and interfere with your ability to concentrate. And it can damage your hearing.
- Common office noise sources may include:
- Equipment, including telephones, computers, and printers.
- Many people working close together, which leads to more voices and foot traffic around work areas.
- Noise outside the building that comes through office windows.
- Even low-level noise can reduce your productivity and increase stress levels, leading to problems with muscles and joints.
- High-level noise is regulated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as this type of noise can lead to significant hearing loss.
What you can do
You and your company can reduce your risk for hearing loss or other problems associated with noise levels with:
- Earplugs, to reduce background noise.
- Acoustic ceiling tiles, to absorb some noise.
- Relocation of noisy equipment.
- Window glass, to block out excessive noise.
- Carpets, to help absorb foot-traffic and conversational noise.
- Noise-reducing partitions, to reduce noise around workstations.