As an employer you will no doubt want to do everything you can to create a healthy and safe environment for your workers. In some working environments the risks and hazards are more obvious, whereas in others they may not be.
For example the use of workstations, can pose a number of risks to staff if not used correctly, so ensuring workstations are properly risk assessed is vital to avoid some of the most common workstation injuries, whether it’s for an office desk job or manual handling workstations.
Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)
The HSE has a section dedicated to risk assessments for Musculoskeletal Disorders, which is a condition that is associated with some of the most common workstation injuries. A Musculoskeletal Disorder affects the musculoskeletal system that makes the body move.
However, MSD’s can occur when a particular strain is put on one specific area within the musculoskeletal system that causes it to be stretched and strained, which can result in pain and discomfort.
In the case of workstation injuries, this tends to be problems with the back, shoulders, arms, neck and hands. They’re common in workstation use as most workstations tend to involve sitting, twisting, stretching and the use of computers that can result in poor posture and muscle strains. The injuries may not be noticeable at first, but over time can develop into more serious MSDs.
These types of injuries include repetitive strain injuries such as tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as back and neck pain and posture problems that can be the result of using a workstation incorrectly.
The importance of risk assessing workstations properly
It’s the occurrence of MSD’s that make it incredibly important to risk assess workstations properly. For example, in office environments, training staff on the correct way to use their workstation with Display Screen Equipment (DSE) can help to reduce the strain put on muscles, ligaments and joints. When it comes to conducting a risk assessment of workstations, it’s important to consider the following:
The position and layout of the workstation – to reduce the strain on the body, computers or equipment should be positioned straight so the body isn’t being twisted to reach it.
Assess reachability – Ensuring equipment is the correct reach will reduce strain on the shoulders, back, neck and arms. If workstations are used for manual handling, such as checkouts or packing, making sure items are within easy reach will reduce strain.
Implement procedures – To ensure best practice you should also implement procedures to minimise strain put on the body such as giving them the capability to easily move and navigate along the workstation.
Worker capability – As part of any risk assessment you also need to factor in worker capability. If they have a known injury or reduced capability to carry out the work then measures should be put in place to they are working within the realms of the capabilities.
Added support – You can also provide additional support for wrists, arms and backs with the right office furniture and specialist equipment such as wrist supports for keyboard and mouse usage.
As with any risk assessment, you not only need to identify the risks, but also implement health and safety systems to control them, which should also involve training staff in the proper use of workstations.