As a Memphis workers’ comp lawyer I’m painfully aware that many people (even employers!) don’t know about safety issues for working at a computer.
In actuality, many of the most common and debilitating injuries happen from strain on the body while sitting at a desk, day after day, for years.
These injuries can cost the company time and money, and make life incredibly difficult for workers.
The good news is they’re also easy to avoid. And taking some precaution can make you an even more stellar worker!
Here are 10 things every desk worker needs to do to stay safe and healthy:
1. Set your chair to the correct height (even if you’re short!).
Your feet should always rest comfortably on the floor, and your spine should be straight with shoulders back. If that means your chair is set too low for your desk, just use a footrest and raise your chair up to the height you need.
2. Position your monitor higher than you think.
It’s amazing how many neck injuries arise from the monitor being too low. Especially in the age of laptops and notebooks, it’s tempting to look down at our screens. Not only does this strain the neck, but it may also lead to a sagging double chin! Your monitor should be kept at arms length away and positioned just at eye level.
3. Watch your wrists.
Carpal tunnel is no joke. Your wrists should be level when typing, not tilted up or down. They also should never rest on the edge of your desk. If you’ve set up your workstation properly, you shouldn’t need a wrist rest. Many wrist rests can actually strain the wrists more.
4. Stop talking on the phone.
No, you don’t need to cancel your calls. But if you use the phone a lot, connect it to a headset. The constant battle of holding the phone between your shoulder and ear while you type or write can eventually cause neck injury you never saw coming.
5. Give your eyes a break.
You’ve probably heard before that you should take regular breaks from the computer to give your eyes a rest. But do you really do it? Or do you get so caught up in other things that you forget? To stay accountable, I recommend e.ggtimer.com, which lets you set a timer for yourself to take regular breaks. Some people also use the Pomodoro technique available there, which gives you 25 minutes of work time followed by 5 minutes of rest.
6. Use your break to stretch your limits.
Giving your eyes a break means leaving your desk, not searching Facebook and Twitter. During those breaks, stretching can re-energize you and help your body prevent injury.
7. Drink plenty of water.
I know many employers offer free office coffee and sodas. That’s fine, but try water instead, or at least in addition. Without water, we’re much more prone to injury of all kinds, including strain to the body at our desks.
8. Sleep. Then sleep some more.
When Daylight Savings Time kicks in, workplace injuries go up. Indeed no matter what time of year, a lack of sleep has been linked to getting hurt on the job. That can include computer injuries – for example, after a bad night of sleep we’re much more likely to set our desks up incorrectly or allow our eyes to become fatigued. We’re less aware of our bodies and our own personal safety.
9. Your mouse matters.
Just like with the keyboard, don’t let your wrists hang on the edge of the desk when using your mouse. Also, make sure the mouse fits your hand comfortably. It sounds so simple, but holding your hand in a pinched position over too small a mouse can eventually hurt you.
10. Keep cords at a distance.
Loose cords can trip you up and tangle with your desk chair. Plus, it can damage your equipment if they get torn or stuck. Keep cords for your many devices and accessories out of the way.
Note: Not every employer allows their workers to obey these rules. Sometimes they don’t provide a safe workspace or update the one you already have. If over time you experience serious workplace injury, you can file a workers’ comp claim. My workers’ comp lawyers in Memphis can help. Contact us for a free conversation.