Computer Safety

What's the Problem?
Repetitive strain injury (RSI) can be the result of a poor sitting position and long periods of uninterrupted use of the home computer. The symptoms are aches and pains in the hands, wrists, arms, neck, shoulders or back.

Am I At Risk?
If you spend a lot of time using your computer, you should be aware of alternatives to the traditional keyboard and mouse, with voice and hand writing recognition systems now available at computer stores.

Working at a home computer should be safe as long as you follow our 12 key facts.

Can Working on the Computer give me Headaches?
Headaches may result from several things that occur with computer work such as screen glare.

  • Poor image quality.
  • A need for different eye glasses.
  • Reading the screen for long periods of time without a break.
  • Poor sitting position or a combination of the above.

    Many of these things can easily be put right once the cause of the problem has been found.

    Should I Use the Computer if I am Pregnant?
    Scientific studies have been carried out and taken as a whole, do not share a link between miscarriage or birth defects. If you are anxious about this matter, you should talk to your Doctor who will be able to give you expert advice.

    Can Working with Computers Affect My Eyesight?
    Scientific research has found no evidence that computer screens can cause disease or permanent damage to eyes. However, long spells or work at the screen can lead to tired eyes and discomfort. Also, by giving your eyes more demanding tasks, it might make you aware of an eyesight problem you had not noticed before.

    If you have concerns, consult your optician. They will be able to give you expert advice.

    I Use a Portable Computer - Are there Special Precautions I Need to Take?
    Laptop and other portable computers are compact enough and easy to carry, but can be heavy upon the shoulder if carried in a bag. Distribute the load evenly and try to carry it as short a distance as possible.

    It is best to avoid using a portable computer for long periods of time when full sized equipment is available. Making sure that you sit comfortably, angling the screen so that it can be seen easily with minimal reflection and taking frequent breaks is suggested.

    Whenever possible, portable equipment should be placed on a firm surface at the right height for typing.

    What about Electrical Safety?
    Do not be tempted to add too many extension cables or double socket adapters to your existing electrical sockets. If you are in any doubt at all, call in an electrician to check the safety of your system and always replace damaged plugs or leads. Do not leave leads trailing on the floor as this could cause a tripping hazard.

    Can the Use of a Mouse Cause Problems?
    Intensive use of a mouse or similar pointing device may give rise to aches and pains in the fingers, hands, wrists, arms or shoulders.

    This can also happen with a keyboard, but mouse work concentrates activity on one hand and arm (and one or two fingers) and this may make problems more likely.

    Make the most of opportunities to take breaks from intensive mouse work - even short pauses can help. If you use a mouse a lot, you can try changing from right to left handed use (and vice versa) from time to time. It can also help to take your hand off the mouse during short pauses and let your mouse arm hang straight down from your shoulder. If you find gripping your mouse awkward, you could try a different shaped or sized one.

    Hold your mouse lightly in the widest part of your hand and rest your fingers on the mouse buttons so that a very small movement is needed to click a button. Support your arm or wrist on the table or wrist rest and do not extend one or more fingers stiffly as this can lead to muscle strain.

    What is a Good Typing Position?
    There are various types of wrist rests available which can take the strain off your wrist when typing at a keyboard. Aim for the position of the keyboard which feels most comfortable (most keyboards can be used at different angles of tilt).

    Is the Computer Screen Okay?
    Make sure you know how to adjust your screen for brightness and contrast and position it to avoid glare from lights or windows. Adjust the brightness and contrast controls on the screen to suit lighting conditions in the room. Make sure the screen surface is clean. You should be looking down at your screen with the top of the screen roughly at your eye level.

    Is My Computer Table Okay?
    There should be space at your computer table for the keyboard in front of the monitor and for a wrist rest in front of the keyboard. Keep the monitor well back from the front edge of the table.
    There should be enough space on the computer table for a mouse mat, a computer manual, any paperwork, floppy discs and cd-roms you will be using. You can attach a simple document holder to your monitor to keep paperwork off the work surface.

    What About All the Other Equipment?
    You should position your equipment so that you can easily reach the paper tray and ink carriages for the printer. If you have a computer unit suitable to stand on the floor under your table, make sure you can reach the floppy disc drive, cd-rom drive and control buttons without straining your back.

    Is My Seat Okay?
    You should be able to sit up right on your chair, with support for your back and have your arms roughly horizontal when using the keyboard. If your feet do not reach the floor, then use a foot stool. Ideally the chair height should be adjustable to suit all the people who use it.

    Am I Sitting Correctly?
    Adjust your chair and computer screen to find the most comfortable position for your work. As a broad guide, your forearms should be approximately horizontal and your eyes the same height as the top of the computer screen. Make sure there is space under your desk to move your legs freely. Move any obstacles such as boxes or equipment.

    How Often Should I Take a Break?
    Take a break from the computer at least every twenty minutes and do some simple stretching to relieve the muscles you have been using - hands, wrists, neck. Get up and walk around at least once an hour and refresh your eyes by looking at long distance objects as well as those close up.