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In a 2002 study of 60 people working at a Sydney call centre, it was found that although only two or three people officially reported OOS, up to 70 per cent claimed to have aches and pains.
After instruction about posture, the number experiencing pain fell markedly.
Australian OOS guidelines for workplace posture and computer use are adequate, but they often do not incorporate the latest best-practice procedures.
"For example, everyone is taught to sit at a 90-degree posture, but over the years studies have shown that no-one actually does this consistently. And there is a tendency to raise computer monitors, but recent research shows a lower position is better as people have a natural tendency to look down."
The best working posture differs for everyone, but there are practical suggestions, such as not elevating shoulders and keeping wrists straight; being able to touch-type helps to avoid neck pain from looking at the keyboard.
The biggest problem with mouse use is that it is pushed away from the centre of the body. It should be as close to the body and the keyboard as possible. Monitors should be at arm's length, free from reflection and glare, and people who wear bifocals should be careful not to tilt their head back to see the screen. Mini Keyboards and keyboards with the numeric keypad on the right are a good solution for this.
Many people do not know how to adjust chairs: "Your knees should be at right angles so your feet are firmly on the floor, with no compression at the back of the leg. Your spine should be slightly tilted back so that there is less pressure on the discs."
The injuries most likely to affect Victorian workers will be the target of a major new campaign unveiled today by the Minister for WorkCover, Mr Bob Cameron. Mr Cameron said the focus of the campaign - work-related, muscle and soft tissue injuries - accounted for more than 60 per cent of work place injuries and cost the community up to half a billion dollars each year.
The new campaign is under the banner of "WorkSafe" - a brand created by WorkCover to encourage both employers and workers to adopt safer work practices to reduce workplace hazards, incidents and injuries.
WorkCover Chief Executive, Mr Bill Mountford, said soft tissue and muscle injuries - or 'sprains and strains' - accounted for 62% of all WorkCover claims, with back injuries accounting for almost half of these.
"Each year for the past five years, we've seen between 17,000 and 18,000 Victorian's injured at work via a sprain, strain or back injury," Mr Mountford said.
"While many Victorians mistakenly believe that muscular and soft tissue injuries are not serious, anyone who has suffered from chronic back pain or an injury of this kind knows just how debilitating the injury and recovery period can be.
"The impact on a person's quality of life and that of their family can often be as devastating as the injury itself."
"So much can be achieved when a company works in partnership with its employees, listens to the issues they raise and implements collaborative solutions," he said.
"WorkSafe reflects this approach and puts the emphasis on prevention."
According to 1996 USA Bureau of Labor statistics:
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration estimates that work-related injuries account for more than 647,000 injuries and illnesses and more than one-third of workers' compensation costs -- an estimated $15 to $20 billion in direct worker's compensation costs in 1995 and an additional $45 to $60 billion in indirect costs.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) USA has predicted that 50% of the work force will suffer from RSIs (of all kinds) by the year 2000.
Occupational Overuse Syndrome can take a long time to heal and that means an expense to business that must pay worker's compensation claims. The time off work will cost business more than the necessary preventative training.
Results of Proactive Approach to Reducing Repetitive Stress Injuries
An example of a company which provides a program designed to combat Occupational Overuse Syndrome:
A company which produces "train the trainer" systems for companies on Occupational Overuse Syndrome, has found one of their clients has saved an estimated $2 Million in Worker's Compensation and medical claims.
Research shows injuries are down and productivity is increased when employers encourage stretch breaks and stress the importance of ergonomics. -S. Iserphagen
California is the first state to protect workers from injuries caused by repetitive work, such as typing on keyboards or working an assembly line. The ergonomics standards took effect from January 1997 and under this regulation, employers must evaluate the work site, control exposure to the injury-causing routine and implement a program designed to minimize the problem. Preventative measures include training programs, breaks and special furniture.
New guidance on using computers and preventing RSI New guidance to help reduce musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), such as backaches or repetitive strain injury (RSI) at work, has today been published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), to coincide with International RSI Awareness day.
Around 1.1 million people in Great Britain suffered from MSDs caused or made worse by work, in 2001/02.
Advice on using laptops and working with a computer mouse is available in 'The law on VDUs: an easy guide', and 'Work with Display Screen Equipment', while 'Aching arms (or RSI) in small businesses' offers advice on RSI in other work activities.
Health and Safety Commissioner (HSC) Owen Tudor, launching the three HSE guidance booklets at a conference organised by the RSI Association in Nottingham, said: "The time for excuses is over. By following the guidance, preventative action in most workplaces can be taken quite easily and need not be costly. Indeed it is likely to be far more expensive for employers and their insurers to ignore RSI, which may lead not only to compensation claims, but also to costs arising from sickness absences and reduced productivity.
"Excessive work pressures, such as high job demands, time pressures and a lack of control, can often act alongside physical risk factors like force, posture and repetition, and can influence both the onset and duration of RSI. Only an integrated management approach which addresses both the organisational and the physical aspects of a worker's job and work environment is likely to be successful in preventing RSI.
"It is particularly important to identify signs of RSI early, to treat the individual and remedy the causes, including stress and other psychosocial factors in the workplace, before the condition moves into its chronic phase".
An estimated 12.3 million working days were lost due to work-related MSDs and on average each sufferer took 19.4 days off in 2001/02. These figures include upper limb disorders from which approximately 400,000 people suffered, resulting in a loss of around four million working days in the same period.
Downloads from the UK Government site Health & Safety Executive
Aching Arms (or RSI) in small businesses 171KB