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Health and the Computer1
The age of the computer is upon us, and many of us spend each and every day in front of a video display terminal (VDT) using our eyes and our wrists and fingers and very little else. Computer workstations have evolved ergonomically (and still are) but they cannot solve the problem of a sedentary workforce which sits all day. Ergonomics (from the Greek words "ergon" meaning work and "nomos" meaning knowledge) combines biological and engineering sciences to examine human behaviour in relation to work,
Ergonomics operates on the principle that machines and tasks should be designed to meet human needs. With the rapid spread of technology, the idea of fitting the machine to the person, rather than the other way around, has taken on a challenging dimension.
When building or renovating a specialized work area, it is a good idea toconsult a specialist in ergonomics as it is more cost-effective to plan ergonomically at the design stage than to make modifications afterwards.
The goal of designing any work system should be, not only to maximize employee productivity, but to improve job satisfaction and minimize occupational safety and health hazards. Poor ergonomics in the workplace has been linked to occupational ailments such as stress, visual fatigue, back strain and shoulder, arm and hand strain. Repetitive strain injuries (also known as cumulative trauma disorders) are becoming increasingly significant in compensation claims. These include carpal tunnel syndrome (compression of the hand's median nerve), tendonitis and tenosynovitis (inflammation of tendons and surrounding tissues), and vibration white finger (affecting the circulation of hands).
Everything in the work environment: lay-out, tools, equipment, furniture, machines, temperature, lighting, acoustics, etc. affects a person's well-being on the job. Well designed tasks that also allow for personal challenge and the use of individual skills will result in high motivation and job satisfaction.
1Reprinted with permission from Occupational Safety and Health, Treasury Board of Canada.
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