Computing Health and Safety

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Whether you work as a web designer or not, it’s likely that your career involves you spending hours in front of a screen each day. You’ve no doubt noticed you feel achy and lethargic at the end of a day in front of your computer but did you know that using a computer as part of your job can have a real impact on your health?

More and more computer-related injuries and issues are reported every year but it’s not all doom and gloom, as there are a few simple things you can do today to look after your health while you work.

In today’s post we’re going to delve into a few of the most common computer-related complaints and share our helpful hints to keep you happy and healthy at work.

Eye Problems

Including:

  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision

Causes

Short term eye strain can occur when the eyes are focused on a fixed distance for a long period of time, making this a particular problem for web designers who are often focused on graphics and designs for hours each day.

Computer Vision Syndrome (or Digital Eye Strain) is the umbrella term for all eye-related problems that are caused by looking at screens. These problems, which include dry or tired eyes, blurred vision and headaches, can be caused by poor lighting, bad posture, glare from a screen and focusing on a screen for too long without a break.

While the jury is still out on whether long term eye problems can be caused or worsened through computer use, research has proven that using a computer for many hours a day definitely does take a toll on your eyes in the short term.

Resolutions

Remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look away from your screen at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds.

Ensure your screen and chair are both adequately positioned to alleviate any eye problems. Your screen should ideally be about 4-5 inches below your eye level and 25 inches away from your eyes.

Make sure you’re using your computer in a well lit space (preferably natural light) and that there’s little to no glare on your screen from any artificial lighting. Additionally, anti-glare filters can be added to your screen to help with this.

Upper Limb Disorders

Including:

  • Aches and pains in the fingers, arms and shoulders
  • Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (swollen tendons)
  • Tenosynovitis (swollen muscles)

Causes

Ongoing repetitive movements can play havoc on the delicate tendons and muscles in our arms and hands, so our wrists and fingers are most at risk when working with computers.

Long stretches of typing, working with a mouse or (sorry to break it to you!) game controllers can all bring out varying degrees of upper limb disorder, ranging from tenosynovitis to CTS (swollen tendons), which can require surgery in extreme cases.

Resolutions

As mentioned above, take regular breaks throughout the day to give your body a chance to recover. Following on from this, try to ensure you don’t go straight from working on your computer to using a computer or tablet for recreation in the evenings.

For those who suffer from typing-related aches and pains, considering using dictation software to cut down on the amount of time you have to spend at your keyboard.

There are also plenty of break reminders you can install on your phone or computer that will send you an alert when it’s time to take a break and stretch things out.

Speaking of which, gently stretching your muscles throughout the day is a great way to alleviate aches and pains. There are lots of ‘desk yoga’ routines out there that even the most amateur yogi can build into their daily routine.

Back Pain

Including:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Lower back pain

Causes

The triple whammy of back pain causes includes bad posture, poor seating position and prolonged periods of inactivity.

Resolutions

Sitting in the same position for half an hour at a time can lead to back and shoulder pain by gradually reducing your flexibility, particularly in your tendons and ligaments.

As we’ve recommend above, take regular breaks from your work and don’t just spend them looking at social media on your phone, instead walk around the office, do a quick once around the block, go to the kitchen and make a cup of tea (bonus: your co-workers will love you).

Let’s talk about posture. How many of you reading this have sat slumped over your laptop or desktop while you finish off that all-consuming piece of work? I’m guessing all of you. Us too. It’s so easy to forget your posture while working but sitting in an upright, neutral position with a straight back is one of the simplest ways to relieve pressure on your body and reduce your risk of back pain.

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We hope today’s post has helped you understand a few of the issues you might have noticed after working at a computer for a particularly long stretch. While using a computer for work is unavoidable for most of us, there are plenty of changes you can make to your daily routine to ensure your health is taken care of. With that said, if you do notice any health issues or discomfort due to your working environment then we urge you to visit a medical professional to get a formal diagnosis and professional guidance for how to rectify the issues.

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