Feeds

Warning! Computers can cripple you

Make sure office work is not a pain in the neck

Application security programs and practises

My recent research has concentrated on how the design of computers and related devices can impact people with disabilities, for better or for worse.

What I have noticed is that many of the technologies are also designed to reduce the possibility that able-bodied people will be crippled by the use of computers. I think that users and their employees should understand the dangers and how to mitigate them.

A close friend of mine and a very close member of my family have both been struck down by repetitive strain injury (RSI) so I have seen from close up the devastating effect it can have.

My friend was in her early 40s and a fit and active squash player. Her job required long periods at the computer, both typing and developing presentations. One day she complained about pains in her arms and tried to carry on working; within a few weeks she could not move without pain, could not use the computer at all, and found it difficult to lift anything heavy. Complete rest for several months did help, after which she could cope with day to day tasks as long as she took frequent breaks. However now, some 10 years later, she has still not recovered and has never been able to work again.

My relative was only 23 when she spent a lengthy period creating some complex and detailed page layouts. This required many hours of precise small movements of the mouse and thousands of clicks and double-clicks. When her right hand started to hurt she swapped to using the mouse with her left. This resulted in frayed tendons in both arms which is very painful and meant she could do nothing with her hands at all. She could feed herself if the food was cut up and she used a light plastic fork, she could drink using a straw in a glass left on the table. Three years later, after lots of rest, weekly physiotherapy and Alexander technique she has improved; she can lift and carry light things but still can not use the computer for any length of time. We are confident that she will continue to get better and be able to do most things, but it seems unlikely that she will ever make a full recovery and will always have to be particular careful and conscious not to over do it.

I have used personal examples to bring the issue to light, but users and employees must recognise that this is not an unusual problem. The numbers are growing; a recent survey by the TUC showed that RSI effects one in 50 of the working population, and six people a day have to give up work because of it.

The crippling effect of RSI is a tragedy for the individuals and a significant drain on companies and the economy. In a future article I will look at technology that can reduce the chance of RSI. But firstly, here are some simple tips from the TUC that everyone can take to reduce the incidents of RSI:

  1. The most important factor in workplace design is adjustability. We are all different shapes and sizes. Make sure that your workstation is set up properly. That means, as a minimum:
    • You should have enough space to work.
    • The top of your screen should be at eye level and at a comfortable distance away from you.
    • Your forearms should be horizontal.
    • Make sure your employer provides you with an adjustable chair. Ideally you should find it comfortable to sit upright and have the seat tilted slightly forward.
    • Your feet should be flat on the floor or on a foot rest if you need one.
    • Wrist or palm rests should be provided and there should be space in front of the keyboard to support the hands during pauses in typing.
  2. If you do a lot of typing then make sure your employer offers you touch-typing training. Two finger typists are far more likely to get pains in the hand wrist and forearms. An alternative is asking for a voice recognition software package.
  3. Don't use the mouse too much. Always use a mouse mat. Consider using the controls on your computer to slow mouse movements down. Use keyboard shortcuts once you are used to them.
  4. Take regular short breaks, both from typing and from sitting in the same position.

You are legally entitled to have your computer equipment and workstation assessed to make sure that it meets your own individual needs. You are also entitled to regular breaks or changes of activities.

For more information on RSI, visit www.tuc.org.uk/rsi.

Copyright © 2006, IT-Analysis.com

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Airbus promises Wi-Fi – yay – and 3D movies (meh) in new A330
If the person in front reclines their seat, this could get interesting
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
Want to beat Verizon's slow Netflix? Get a VPN
Exec finds stream speed climbs when smuggled out
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.