When you think about ergonomics, the subject of Social Security benefits might not be the next thing that comes to mind. Our experience as Social Security Disability advocates has shown us another perspective.
We know musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, tendonitis and rotator cuff tears can result from poor ergonomics.
Take a look at numbers from the Social Security Disability program, and you can see these conditions clearly play a role in how many people apply for these federal government benefits.
Of the 778,796 disabled workers the program reported in 2014, the largest category had diagnoses with musculoskeletal and connective tissue diseases. The group amounted to 31.2 percent of disabled workers in the program.
Ergonomics Intervene to Stop Disabilities
The Social Security numbers suggest that the importance of ergonomics in preventing pain and illnesses extends to allowing people to continue working. It has the potential to stem increases in official disability cases.
So at our Alexandria, Va., firm Mathis & Mathis, we’re evangelists for ergonomics advice.
All of the below practices recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association can improve people’s lives, keep them healthy at work and prevent disruptions from disabilities, both personally and for employers.
A report from the AIHA divides these preventative measures into five categories: posture, seating, repetition, eyestrain and psychological stresses. These apply particularly to people who work at desks and spend hours in front of computers.
- Posture: The overarching rule is to change positions periodically. Beyond that, use document stands, type with straight wrists, center your monitor with your chair, use a telephone headset, set up your work space to avoid unnecessary bending and make sure to relax your neck and shoulders.
- Seating: Of course, you need a good chair that supports the S-curve of your spine, lets you sit without leaning forward too much, features adjustable arm rests and adjustable heights, has comfortable fabric, allows you change positions and fits you well.
- Repetition: Variety is crucial in avoiding MSDs. To accomplish it, you should switch between tasks, get up and move around, take multiple small breaks and take time stretch and walk during short breaks.
- Eyestrain: Staring at computer monitors can exhaust your eyes, so cut down glare with strategies like moving lamps, moving the monitor and installing a glare screen. Make sure the top of your screen is at your line of sight. If you wear glasses, get reading glasses tailored to your monitor’s position. It also helps to work with dark type on light backgrounds, give your eyes quick breaks by looking at something far away and adjust fonts to a comfortable size for you.
- Stress: If you’re tense, skipping breaks, preoccupied, letting your ergonomics habits slip and avoiding reporting health issues, this pattern could lead to injuries and MSDs. While stress comes from a lot of sources, the AIHA suggests that the act of taking charge of your physical working space using all of the best ergonomics methods is itself a great way to reduce stress.
Accidents, injuries, missed work time and people leaving the workforce because of disabilities all mean lost productivity. The AIHA reminds us of something we often see while working on disability cases, which is that ergonomics is important both for reasons of health and economics.