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Modern Ergonomic Maladies

As employees add the latest and greatest technological toys to their daily routines, it’s worth noting the ergonomic impact these devices have. 

While some of the latest maladies [and the names people come up with for them] may sound like a joke, the potential work comp claims that could stem from them are no laughing matter!  Informing employees about the ergonomic risks involved with new technologies is worth a reminder from time to time.

Blackberry Thumb

People hooked on the Crackberry may experience pain or numbness in their thumbs as a result of spending too much time texting and browsing on their devices.  “Blackberry Thumb” is a specific type of tendonitis that many cell phone users are experiencing, although the tinymouse keyboard of the Blackberry makes it somewhat more aggravating than other devices.

Treatment for this problem is simple: put the cell phone down.  Alternatively, using other fingers to type or using a stylus while experiencing soreness may help.

Mousing Elbow

Constant strain on the elbow can cause microtears to the tendons of the forearm, causing soreness also known as “tennis elbow.”  As more of daily business operations move online and become paperless, the amount of time employees are spending in front of the computer is increasing.  Mouse-intensive work puts the dominant arm under repetitive stress and can lead to injury.

“Mousing elbow” can be avoided by:

  1. Positioning the mouse as close to the keyboard as possible to minimize reach
  2. Increasing mouse pointer speed, making it more sensitive and requiring less motion on the part of the user
  3. Teaching employees keystroke short cuts like Ctrl+C for Copy and Ctrl+V for Paste.
  4. Alternating the side of the keyboard the mouse is on from time to time (although this is tough to get the hang of)
  5. Doing hand and forearm stretches at the desk every 30 minutes or so

iPhone Ear

While the hands-free ear bud/microphone used by many iPod owners is convenient, it is literally pumping sound directly into the ear drum.  iPhones/iPods can produce volumes upward of 115 decibels, a level that can cause damage after only 28 seconds of exposure.

Taking calls on speakerphone and playing music in the office with the door shut can help minimize damage to the ear drum that can be caused by repeated exposure to these devices. 

While it’s not likely there will be a flood of these types of claims, it’s good to keep aware of the ergonomic impact of the devices used every day in the workplace.  Remind employees to make necessary adjustments to preserve their health while on the job.


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Topics: Safety / Compliance