It All Starts With the Chair

your company health and safety consultants and office chair ergonomicsMillions of workers spend their day sitting in a chair, staring at a computer screen. If your chair and workstation are set up incorrectly and if you have bad posture, according to most health and safety consultants you are in danger of major health problems down the road.

A good chair is the best start to preventing stress on your body, which leads directly to pain in the short term and health problems in the future.

Without a good chair, musculoskeletal disorders are the result, affecting the nerves, tendons and muscles all over the body but especially in back, shoulders, neck, wrists, hands and forearms. In addition eye strain and long-term vision problems are common. The resulting headaches and lower and upper back pain can make life a misery.

Consult Your Company’s Own Health and Safety Consultants

You don’t have to give up your life as a geek to get relief. Instead, check with your company’s health and safety consultants, EH&S specialists, or even compliance coordinators. They have guidelines on how to choose the proper chair, the basis of all ergonomic adjustments.50 things you must know about safety leadership

To make the most of a supportive chair, you also need to have a work station adjusted properly for distance and height. These two things make a major difference to your comfort level today and the health of your body over the coming years.

It is also essential to incorporate regular stretching and strength training in your weekly activities. This helps your posture, making it easier for your musculoskeletal system to support your weight evenly and effectively. And every computer user needs to take regular breaks during the day.

The All-Important Chair

Getting back to the essential chair, there are several features to look for. Day after day, and all through the day, it holds your body and your weight. You need to get the best fit possible.

Here are several features to look for:

castors—the best computer chair has at least five castors to keep it stable.

  • seat—the seat should be adjustable. Aim to have your thighs parallel to the floor. The part that holds your fanny, called the seat pan, should be adjustable and able to tilt backward and forward. The front edge should be rounded.
  • backrest—the height needs to be adjustable to adequately support your lumbar region, however tall or short you are.
  • armrest—though optional, they make you more comfortable. They should adjust for height and be rounded. If you can order armrests that are adjustable for width, you will be better assured of arm and shoulder support.

fctc-online-bannerSurprisingly, exercise balls now get a thumbs down from ergonomics experts. Prolonged sitting on them offers no support to your torso and compresses the vertebrae. They are great for fitness moves, but very bad for lots of sitting.

Ergonomics for Computer Users

This information is the result of ongoing research in the area of office ergonomics, the science of human efficiency, body comfort and wellness. It is a critical field because musculoskeletal disorders are rampant among office workers, leading them at best to take sick days and at worst to file for workers compensation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that these disorders account for over one third of all employee injury and illness. By law, companies are required to keep the workplace safe and healthy. Businesses see it as a bottom line issue. When workers are comfortable and safe as they carry out their duties, downtime and turnover are reduced.

The modern trend toward a company culture of safety has led to management involving workers. Since they are doing the actual tasks and using the furnishings and tools, computer workers are the most practical people to do the workplace assessments and come up with solutions. These include choosing the proper chair and testing different work stations.

Occupational health and safety courses for office workers always include segments dealing with the long-term health effect of sitting for long periods in front a computer. If you are having problems with your chair or other equipment, your company’s office safety manager can help you make your office environment comfortable and stress free for your body.


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About the Author

safetyBUILT-IN is the safety-leadership learning and development division of SCInc. We believe sustainable safety performance is best achieved through a core-values based safety culture, and that culture must be driven by leadership. Our safety-leadership programs are competency-based, and focused on performance outcomes. We believe in building capability and ownership into our client organizations—as well as sustainability into our programs—so that our clients can continue running those programs long after we’re out of the picture. Our emphasis is on building better leadership presence, better leadership communication and better leadership coaching by first building relationships of trust with people and learning how to engage them on the level of their core values and beliefs.