The French poet Charles Baudelaire observed back in the 1800s, “Inspiration comes of working every day.” Most people do work every day, and unfortunately it’s not only inspiration that comes of it. Repetitive stress injuries (RSI) are also the result of every day tasks performed again and again while operating a computer. Relief is in sight, however, thanks in part to a particular government agency. This organization is raising awareness and promoting solutions 24/7.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a mandate to protect employees from being hurt in the workplace. James Hodgson, Secretary of Labor, established OSHA within his department in 1971. This was in response to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, legislation he helped author. For the first time in U.S. history, the government stepped in to make sure that workers were as protected as possible from illness, injury, and death on the job. And OSHA had its work cut out for it. Construction, chemical, and agricultural workers were among the many who needed better safety standards in their industries.
But as computer use rose, and the related RSI grew, OSHA turned its attention to this new problem. In recent years, OSHA has developed a four part program designed to reduce injuries and illnesses associated with computer use on the job. The four parts are
Guidelines, Outreach and Assistance, Enforcement, and the National Advisory Committee.
Guidelines are recommended practices that are developed for specific tasks and industries. These are voluntary, not mandatory. Employers use the guidelines to identify and modify risks in the workplace. Implementing these practices reduces injuries related to the way people do their jobs.
The Outreach and Assistance component of this program is aimed at businesses of all sizes. OSHA wants companies to take a proactive stance when it comes to preventing RSI. To help employers, OSHA designed an extensive array of tools that educate, analyze, and train people regarding the ergonomics of their jobs. Available to the public for free on the OSHA website, the computer workstation portion of the Ergonomics eTools is a comprehensive guide to proper computing techniques.
Included in this section is:
Good Working Position (talks about every part of the body and what the best placement is for preventing RSI)
Workstation Components (all the technology and furniture you commonly use is listed here with possible hazards, solutions, and tips)
Checklist (a great way to evaluate how you’re doing ergonomically while you operate a computer)
Work Process (focuses on the physical movements of computer use, with hazards to watch for, more solutions, and tips)
Workstation Environment (information about factors people often don’t think about such as lighting, ventilation, and glare)
But Outreach and Assistance is more than the Ergonomic eTools. It has industry guidelines, cooperative programs, ergonomic analysis info, and success stories. It even has a checklist with tips for new purchases. It is chock full of valuable information for everyone from the individual computer user to the captains of industry.
OSHA persists in its campaign to help employers and employees prevent Repetitive Stress Injuries. If the folks at OSHA have their way, inspiration will be the only result of long hours of work in front of a computer. Baudelaire would approve