When you think of workplace injuries, it's easy to think of obvious accidents, like slipping and falling on a wet floor, getting hit in the head by a falling box in the storeroom, or being exposed to a hazardous material. However, repetitive stress injuries – injuries caused by making the same movements over and over with some part of your body – actually account for a large number of workers compensation claims. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that repetitive stress injuries are the most common type of workplace injury, costing around $20 billion a year in workers compensation costs. Repetitive stress injuries related to computer work, such as carpal tunnel or back pain, are becoming more and more prevalent among office workers. Take a look at a few tips for avoiding this type of injury at work.
Take More Frequent Breaks
One of the most important things that you can do to avoid repetitive stress injuries is to take frequent breaks from what you're doing. The injuries are caused by doing the same things over and over, so you can avoid them if you interrupt what you're doing and do something else.
The breaks don't have to be long ones. Just get out of your chair and walk around the office or get a drink of water. Or stand right there by your computer and do a few stretches. Anything to get you out of your chair and away from the screen and keyboard for a few minutes is beneficial.
Limit Your Typing
Sure, there's no way that you can avoid typing entirely, but you can probably cut down on the amount of time that you spend typing each day. Make it a point to make phone calls instead of sending emails whenever possible. If the person you're sending a message to is in your building, get up and go see them in person instead of emailing – it cuts down on your typing time and gets you up and moving for a few minutes.
If you work from home or if you have your own office where it's quiet, consider installing speech-to-text software on your computer. You can talk into a microphone and have it show up on your computer as text, rather than typing everything out.
Practice Good Posture
Good posture may sound like something that your mother nagged you about, but now it's about more than looking presentable – it's important for your health. Sitting in a position that's bad for your back, neck, or shoulders day after day is a surefire way to induce a repetitive stress injury.
You should be sitting up straight, with your hips pushed as far back in the chair as they will go, your feet flat on the floor, and your knees bent. If your feet aren't flat on the floor when you sit all the way back in the chair, then the chair is too high for you – adjust its height so that your feet reach the floor when you sit up straight.
Sit directly in front of the keyboard. It should be close enough to you that you don't have to reach to hit the keys. Tilt the keyboard up and toward you by using the keyboard feet or a keyboard stand. Also, use wrist rests to rest the palms of your hands in between keystrokes. Don't actually use them to support your wrists while typing. Despite the name, using wrist rests for your wrists has no real benefit and can actually contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome.
These tips can reduce your chances of developing a repetitive stress injury, but sometimes the injuries are unavoidable. If you suspect that you have a repetitive stress injury, see your doctor right away. Workers compensation claims for repetitive stress injuries can be difficult, because it can be tough to prove that the injury is work related. If you have difficulty getting your workers compensation claim approved, an experienced workers compensation attorney can help. You can click here for more information on how to contact a workers compensation lawyer.