Working with a computer
Working with a display screen/computer has become an integral and indispensable part of the work of many people and professions. Data entry, document management, creating or designing graphic images is just the beginning of a long list of jobs that cannot be imagined without the help of a computer. Also, many machines in industrial establishments are more or less automated, as a result of which a modern worker monitors the operation of the device on the screen instead of the former heavy workload.
The main health problems associated with computer work are related to musculoskeletal overload caused by forced positions. Primary health symptoms include pain in the forearm, wrist, shoulder, neck and lumbar region. Eye problems and decreased visual acuity are mainly due to the characteristics of the human eye, the duties to be performed (such as the size of the objects being observed) and some environmental conditions such as humidity and lighting conditions in the room. Fatigue and stress are the result of the combined effect of the complexity and amount of duties performed and the time spent on working. There are many other health problems such as headaches and skin irritation.
The employer is obliged to assess the employee’s workplace during the risk assessment of the working environment, taking into account the factors endangering the employee's vision, physical or mental overload, working environment risk factors, including lighting, noise, electromagnetic radiation and indoor climate of the workroom, as well as the ergonomics and design of the workplace.
Every employee must receive the necessary instruction and training before working with a display screen and also after making significant changes in the workplace. The employer must organise the work in such a way that the employee can alternate work with the display screen with other work duties in order to prevent eye strain and discomfort caused by working in a forced position. If this is not possible, the employee must be able to take periodic breaks. The duration of breaks must be at least 10% of the time spent working with the display screen. The employer must arrange a medical examination for an employee who works with a monitor for at least half of their working time. In addition, a medical examination must be carried out at the request of the employee if visual disturbances or musculoskeletal disorders have occurred while working with the display screen.
The workplace with a computer must be designed and constructed ergonomically. The planning and designing of the workplace must meet the requirements set out in the Regulation ‘General Occupational Health and Safety Requirements for Work with Display Screen Equipment’. Instructions for creating a good workplace in the office can be found here.
The employee must be able to achieve a suitable and comfortable working position. When working with a display screen, the work desk or surface must be large enough to allow the display screen, keyboard, and other devices to be properly positioned. The keyboard must be free-standing, sloping, with a matt finish, and placed on a desk in such a way that the employee does not experience any discomfort in their hands or arms. To ensure legibility, the contrast and size of the characters must be adjustable, the screen image must be constant and free of flicker, and the height and angle of the display screen must be adjustable. The software must be easy to use and, where possible, adaptable to the user's level of knowledge and skills.
The layout of the chair and desk must ensure that the body position of the employee is ergonomically correct. If the chair and desk cannot be adjusted to suit the employee, it will cause discomfort, dissatisfaction and muscle fatigue. If the employee does not recover from the latter, pain and consequently illness will occur. The height of the chair seat must be adjustable and the position and angle of the backrest also adjustable. When choosing a chair, its suitability for the employee who will use it must be assessed. Before buying a chair, you should find out the height of the desk and the adjustment options. The height of the desk will determine the need for the seat adjustment range. In general, the seat height is adjusted so that the freely falling arm of the employee in the sitting position is level with or slightly lower than the keyboard. If the employee's feet rest on the floor in this sitting position and the kneecap forms a full or obtuse angle, the seating position is suitable for most people. If the kneecap forms an acute angle, it is necessary to increase the height of both the seat and the table. If the chair seat is higher than the knee when standing, it is necessary to use a footrest.
The minimum load on the spine is ensured by an angle of inclination of 100 to 110 degrees between the backrest and the seat. The seat material of the chair should be breathable and have an abrasion resistance that allows the seat to remain in a slightly tilted position. This requires minimal muscle strength to maintain or change posture, and blood flow to the hind thigh muscles is less impeded.
The function of the chair backrest is to support the lumbar region. In a supported seating position, there shall be a space of at least two fingers between the knee braces and the seat. If sitting in a position that supports the lower back results in the front edge of the seat being against the knee joint, the chair must be adjusted or a more suitable chair selected.
The shoulders must not be raised when supporting the arms or elbows on the armrests. If other adjustments have been made, the armrests of the chair may prevent the chair from moving close to the table. If the employee is positioned too far away from the table, it is often characterised by a forward-bent head and forward-leaning shoulders and body position. If the wrists and arms can be supported elsewhere and the armrests prevent the chair from moving, consideration could be given to removing the armrests.
Five exercises for the eyes
It is very important to give your eyes regular rest and, so to speak, to exercise them. Here are five good ways to take care of your eyes.
Blink more often
Blinking the eyes creates more fluid that is distributed throughout the eye and the eyes do not become too dry.
Allow your sight to wander
Choose at least three central points in the room and some outdoors such as a picture on the wall or light switch, a tree outside the window or a building on the other side of the road. From time to time, rest your eyes from one central point in the room to the one outdoors. This prevents unilateral tension in the eye muscles.
Take a short break
Look very slowly into the distance and move your eyes up without moving your head. Take a deep breath and look down as far as you can. Take another deep breath and repeat the whole exercise five times. Then do the same exercise five times more, turning your eyes to the right and left.
Rotate your eyes
First, rotate your eyes clockwise for one minute. Close your eyes for ten seconds and then rotate your eyes counter clockwise for one minute.
Particularly effective strategies
It is very relaxing to close your eyes for ten seconds from time to time.
Do not forget to drink plenty of water. Due to lack of fluid, the eyes may be prickly and dry. Drink plenty and regularly – it is not just good for the eyes, but for your health in general!