A link to an article of sound ergonomic advice was emailed to SafetyAtWorkBlog in early April 2010 suggesting readers may be interested. The article is entitled “The Ultimate Guide to Ergonomics: 50 Tips & Tricks for Serious Students” and contains some good suggestions but it seems to be based on some assumptions that are not necessarily present in the real world of students.
For general posture the article advises the following:
- “Fill in the space between your back and the back of the chair
- Keep your tummy relaxed
- Keep your neck, back and heels aligned
- Keep your feet flat on the floor
- Sit down
- Tuck in your chin
- Keep your knees at a 90-degree angle when sitting
- Draw your shoulders back and relax
- Align your hips with the base of your chair
- Evenly distribute your weight”
But the clues to substantially reducing risk factors are in the intro to the article (emphasis added):
“You might think that just because you’re still in college, you don’t have to worry about the physical stresses and strains that 8-plus-hour work days put on your body. But as a student, you put in a lot of hours studying and working, too. Besides getting regular exercise and trying to eat as healthfully as you can, you need to monitor your posture, especially at the computer and when you study.”
How much time is spent on a computer in the student’s room or in a cafeteria, or a library? Yes, students have work days of often longer than 8 hours but they also have work days of much less than 8 hours. Within that 8 hour day, there are lectures, travel, food, chores, socialising and maybe some exercise. Some of the activities will not be computer- or desk-based, such as reading a book or, for those students with several hundred dollars spare on the weekend, an iPad.
The current advice for the prevention of soreness from prolonged sedentary postures is to move regularly and frequently. The article provides its best advice in the opening chapter – regular exercise and healthy eating. Healthy eating may be a struggle as many students in my time existed on brown rice, instant noodles and cup-a-soup. Adequate sleep could also be added to the list of advice.
Tip 47 is
“Take breaks: Ease eye strain and repeated muscle movement by getting up to walk around the room and stretch a couple of times every hour, at least.”
This should be much higher in the list, perhaps just after exercise, healthy eating and sleep, as these four actions seem to have the best chance of preventing the soreness occurring in the first place – a major aim of OHS and ergonomics.