Webster’s New World Dictionary (College Edition) defines ergonomics as "the study of problems of people adjusting to their environment; especially the science that seeks to adapt work or working conditions to suit the worker".
With the average office worker spending about 80 % of their time in a seated position, good posture is vital to ensure good health and well being, increased productivity and the saving of lost man hours due to related health problems, in particular back and neck pain, headaches, leg and feet problems.
Why is ergonomics important?
The body of knowledge covering ergonomic risks in this area is still relatively small but it is rapidly growing. Ergonomics is good for people and the bottom line. Not only does it improve employee well being and morale but it can save money by reducing costs related to workers compensation, absenteeism and staff turnover.
What can you do?
- Start an ergonomic awareness programme. Educate staff about the adjustments of their chair or workstations and the basics of ergonomics, so they understand how and why the equipment and chair works as it does.
- Have someone who understands ergonomics prepare a workplace assessment. Rearranging layouts could be an immediate solution; ensure that workers are sitting on chairs and at workstations that are ‘ergonomically’ designed.
- Plan for the future by selecting workstations and office chair designs that suit the requirements of the office situation and that adjust to the physical differences of users and the task.
What to look for in a chair
- Correct seating posture is maintained over long periods
- Height adjustable seat
- Forward seat tilt and waterfall front edge to maximise blood circulation in the thighs and legs
- Firm lumbar support on backrest that is height adjustable against the lower part of your back
- Adjustable forward/back tilt on backrest to provide permanent contact support to your back
- Height adjustable arms if applicable
- Free float or synchronised mechanisms where applicable
- Fire retardant fabric that is durable and that ‘breathes’
Try before you buy
A five-minute test run is not enough. Ask for a trial chair to be made available for use over a one or two day period. Learn how to operate the chair and make proper use of the adjustments, ask other people to sit in the chair and test it.