Office Desk Safety

Written by debbie mcrill
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Office Desk Safety
OSHA has standard requirements for desk safety. (desk in the hotel room image by Nadezda Pyastolova from Fotolia.com)

According to Office Chair Reviews, "Millions of people work with computers every day." Back pain and repetitive strain cause time off from work that may be as costly as £20.3 billion a year. Creating a working environment that is safe and comfortable takes some thought and preparation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ergonomic requirements for the office environment to protect workers.

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Posture

Posture is important to reduce strain on the body. A person should sit with her head and neck in line with her body, facing forward but not leaning forward. Shoulders and arms should not be raised. The wrist and hands must be straight and not bent either up or down. If using a wrist rest, it should have padding and allow your wrist and forearms to stay in a straight line while working. The feet should be on a footrest or flat on the floor with the thighs parallel to the floor.

Computer Use Safety

Computers are the primary office tool for many people working at a desk. Not setting up the computer correctly can cause muscle strain. The mouse should be placed near the keyboard so that you are not reaching or stretching to use the mouse. The keyboard or other input device should be comfortable to reach the keys without strain. The hands and wrist should not rest or rub against hard or sharp surfaces. The monitor placement is important for avoiding muscle strain and eye strain. The top of the monitor screen should be at eye level or slightly below. You should not need to bend your head up or down to view the monitor. The monitor should be straight in front of you while working. You should not have to turn your head to view the screen. Glare should not reflect on the monitor's screen to avoid positioning yourself in an unnatural position to "see through" the glare. This will also avoid eye strain.

Working Area

The desk and chair work as a unit in your work area. The desk may be the correct height, but if the chair isn't adjusted for the user's height, it can cause you to reach or your thigh may rub the underneath side of the desk. There should be 2 to 3 inches between the desk and your thighs. Under the desk should not be cluttered so that your feet don't have room for you to sit closely to the work surface. Assistance tools like document holders should be at the same height as the monitor. It should also be at the same distance as the monitor. You shouldn't need to twist your head or constantly shift the focus of your vision.

Chair

OSHA requires that office chairs meet certain standards. The chair needs back support. Optimally, the chair back has a slight "S" curve to align with the spine. It should have a "waterfall" or curved front of the seat to ensure proper blood circulation. Adjustments should be easy to make for seat and back height as well as back tilt. Proper casters help the user move easily. In general, chairs should be comfortable and in good working condition.

General Work Area Considerations

Telephones are not necessarily part of desk safety, however, many office workers use telephones extensively. The phone should be placed on the desk so that you don't stretch to answer. You also need to keep your head upright while talking, especially if you are performing computer tasks at the same time. Headphones allow you to relax your shoulders while talking on the phone and typing.

In general, all furniture and office equipment used with the desk should work properly. Each piece of equipment should be adjustable to meet individual worker needs. The work tasks should be varied, allowing you to perform different tasks occasionally. This helps prevent repetitive motion injuries. You should also take "micro-breaks" while working at a desk.

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