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Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)

Blog: Health and Safety Risks of Computer Work

“Evidence suggests that about 3% of women and 2% of men will be diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome during their lifetime…” – The New York Times 

One may not think a desk job or computer work would have many health risks, but according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), repetitive movements (including mouse or keyboard use), sitting in awkward or uncomfortable positions, or straining the neck to look at a screen that is too high or too low can cause musculoskeletal injuries. Additionally, eye damage is a big health concern due to frequent computer screen usage.

It is important to understand the health and safety risks of computer work and how to avoid and prevent workplace injury.

What are some of the risks?

Repetitive movement on the computer can put employees at risk for musculoskeletal issues. Two common musculoskeletal issues workers face are carpal tunnel syndrome and tenosynovitis. Tenosynovitis is an “inflammation of the nerve and muscle sheaths where tendons on the fingers pass through. A person with tenosynovitis will suffer from wrist pain and pain on the back of the hand” as described by medi. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve that passes through the carpal tunnel wrist bones.

In addition to hand and wrist pain, eye damage is a concern for employees that frequently use computers at work (as well as employees that use smart phones or tablets). Too much screen time can cause many eye-related symptoms such as discomfort, eyestrain, blurred vision, dry eyes, headache, fatigue, difficulty focusing, and shoulder and neck pain

What can you do to avoid workplace injuries?

Knowing the risks of computer jobs is just half the battle, it is also important to educate yourself and your co-workers on how to avoid work related injuries.

The easiest thing you can do is take a break. Rest is important when doing a repetitive job. Step away from the computer and visit the water cooler, grab a coffee, go eat lunch outside in the sun, or just restock the printer with some new paper.

Take a look at our ergonomics blog to learn easy stretches for your back, neck, or hands. Learn some desk exercises you can do while at your workstation to keep your body strong and take your mind off work.

Additionally, you may want to consider requesting that your office administrator or human resources manager order special peripherals such as a trackball mouse or ergonomic keyboard.

OSHA suggests “adapting tasks, workstations, tools, and equipment to fit the worker to help reduce physical stress on a worker’s body and eliminate many potentially serious, disabling work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).”

Be sure your office consults with ergonomics experts to provide a safe work environment and check out Ergonomics Blog for some quick tips.


In conclusion

As long as you remain proactive about your health at work, you should be able to avoid many workplace injuries. If you do suffer from an injury, be sure to always consult with your doctor first.

Hopefully these ergonomics tips can help keep your workplace a safe work place. For more guidance on all work related health and safety issues, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact Us for more information.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog for more ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Northern California, Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Portland.

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