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Meeting OSHA's New Standards

Timely tips for entrepreneurs who must comply with the recently announced new standards

Many businesses are scrambling to meet the new ergonomic standards issued by OSHA which are set to take effect today. According to OSHA, repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis, cost employers as much as $20 billion annually in workers' compensation. To reduce musculoskeletal disorders among computer users, you must identify physically stressful working conditions and modify employee tasks. Here's how:

  • Most desks and tables are around 29 inches high, which is great for doing paperwork or writing but too high for using a keyboard (the ideal height for that is 23 to 27 inches) and too low for a monitor, which should be at eye level. Reaching for a too-high keyboard leads to wrist pain, and dropping the head forward to view a too-low monitor strains neck muscles. Adjust the desk height to accommodate a keyboard or use an under-desk keyboard tray, and put monitors on a raised monitor stand that will put that at the right height.
  • A perfect fit for one employee may be a dangerous misfit for another. Computers and other hardware that is shared by employees of various heights should be supported on an adjustable-height keyboard and mouse tray. Employees can then easily raise or lower the keyboard into a comfortable position, and choose to sit or stand while inputting information.
  • For high-tech equipment on the move, mobile carts must have, at a minimum, firmly fastened castors, which glide smoothly and lock securely. Handles and safety straps make it easier still to careen down corridors, across parking lots, and over elevator thresholds.
  • Chairs should have a backrest, swivel base and rolling castors. They should also offer adjustment for the sear, back and height. (If raising the height lifts feet off the floor, add a footrest.) For perfect posture, employees should be trained to make use of the adjustment points on their chairs and computer furniture.
  • Cut glare on monitor screens by relying on indirect light, which is kindest to eyes. Turn off harsh overhead lights. Close curtains or blinds. Position monitors so windows are to the side of or behind the screen. Then, use a desk or clamp-on lamp to illuminate small areas.
  • Make sure that compute furniture shelf edges are smooth and rounded, with no sharp corners. Shake stands vigorously to be sure they're stable enough to hold heavy hardware-especially if in motion.

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