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Ergonomics: Sitting Pretty

hands on a computer keyboard
AP
Alan Hedge, co-founder of HealthyComputing.com and a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University, visits The Saturday Early Show to tell Co-Anchor Gretchen Carlson about how to avoid injuries in the workplace.

A Few Basics:

  • A chair is one of the most important component of a work station. It should be adjustable. You should sit up straight or slightly reclined.
  • Feet should be flat on the floor or on a footrest.
  • When typing, your arms should be flat and your hands relaxed.
  • Split keyboards are good for the wrists and are growing in popularity.
  • The bottom of the hand should touch the mouse and the point where your hand turns into your wrist should be on the table.
  • Consider buying a hi-tech track ball mouse
  • The computer monitor should be at eye level and tilted slightly upward. It should have no glare; consider buying a glare guard.
  • Using a laptop computer for too long can cause aches and pains.
  • If you talk on the phone a lot, buy a headset.
Ergonomics is not a four-letter word - even though many business owners may think otherwise.

That's because when business people hear the word "ergonomics," they immediately think of dollar signs -- as in, what it will cost to outfit employee workstations with new setups to prevent sometimes crippling injuries.

But the money needed may be minimal, and your employees' health should be the overriding concern, says Dan Eisman, vice president of marketing and product development for HealthyComputing.com, an ergonomics consultant. Painless simple adjustments to a computing environment, such as getting a better chair or raising a monitor, may cost little but makes a huge difference in injuries and employee absences.

Understanding how poor positioning combined with no breaks can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) should be a priority for anyone who works at a PC and/or employs others who do.

"Businesses very often don't have to spend $1,000 or more on equipment - or completely overhaul the workplace," Eisman says. "But if you have the knowledge, you can better know what to do and what to spend." Employers should learn about what triggers wrist pain and other repetitive-stress injuries, and spend time watching and training their employees, he says.

Because people come in different shapes and sizes, solutions to ergonomic problems differ. However, there are some generally accepted guidelines when it comes to sitting at a computer for several hours a day, day after day.