Office workers often complaint of aches, pain and strains from musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). MSD are syndromes characterised by discomfort, impairment, disability, or persistent pains in joints, muscles, tendons or other soft tissues. They are the most common self-reported, work-related illness and accounted for 57% of all occupational injuries in the US. High incidence rates for MSDs have been reported for workers in a wide range of industries including office work, manufacturing, agriculture and numerous manual materials handling occupations. MSD have become a major concern because of the negative impact on the health and productivity of employees.
In a recent study conducted by the Singapore General Hospital on the prevalence of MSD among office workers in Singapore, it was found that 73% of the 324 respondents reported experiencing pain in at least one of the body parts. The body parts with the highest report of pain were neck (46%), shoulder (42%) and low back (42%). MSD is more common in female (79%) compared to male (64%).
Observation of postures adopted by office workers at work showed that many of them performed their work in awkward postures. The common observations were shoulder elevation, and excessive bending and twisting of the neck and back. Many office workers often sit at the edge of the chairs, which resulted in the lack of support for the back.
Awkward postures, often aggravated by poorly designed workstations, can increase the risk of people getting MSD. MSD can be very painful and sometimes permanently disabling. The disorder can interfere with all aspects of daily life. Sometimes even the simplest household chores, hobbies and social events can become unmanageable. Financial costs can be severe. Employers can experience costs in a variety of ways such as lost time at work, medical treatment and disability cost. Hence, it is important to have workstations that are well designed for the users and the intended tasks to be performed.
Ergonomics involves the design of work and workplaces to accommodate the users’ physical and psychological needs. Put is simply, it’s creating the work and environment to make it more comfortable for people work in. The objective of ergonomics is to maximise the quality of working life and to minimise the occurrence of MSD.
The main components of an office workstation include the desk, chair and the equipment used to perform office task, often a computer. When designing a workstation, it is important that you consider task that have to be performed, and the type of equipment used. Flexibility is the key in workstation design.
The way the workstation is designed affects the posture that one adopts while working. Therefore, the workstation should be designed to place the person in the best position to enable him/her to perform the work in comfort.