Employees working in the office tend to underestimate the potential safety and health hazards in their immediate environment, including their computer workstation. Although most workers spend a large amount of time working with computers, they still possess a poor understanding of ergonomics and human-computer interaction. Health risks, such as MSD (Musculoskeletal Disorders), visual fatigue and mental stress can lead to severe health impairments i.e. Carpal Tunnel Disorder (CTD). These health problems do not appear overnight but only over a considerable period of time.
The participatory approach is one of the methods used for the ergonomic workstation program. This approach involves each department Champions conducting Display Screen Equipment (DSE) coaching sessions, which are followed by the completion of a self-assessment form by each DSE user in their departments. This self-assessment is important to ascertain the frequency of health symptoms related to MSD as well as the percentage of factors that contribute to health risks experienced by the DSE users.
In addition to the statistics obtained, the other important part of the assessment is focusing on actions to be taken to minimize DSE health risks. These action items will be followed up through personal coaching sessions to fine-tune behavioral approaches and deploy appropriate equipment to ensure that the most optimal ergonomic workstation designs are implemented. The key to making this program a success is to encourage multiple departments to actively participate.
Health at work is the responsibility of both the company and its employees. The company is responsible for providing a healthy working environment, awareness and education on health and safety aspects of the working environment. The employees are responsible for following the company's policies and procedures and implementing safe and healthy work behavior.
The majority of employees in the office have jobs that involve working with computers (Display Screen Equipment, Visual Display Terminals). There have occasionally been complaints related to health symptoms, primarily problems with the neck, shoulders, and lower back, which have been associated with computer use (Manuaba, 2007).
The Display Screen Equipment (DSE) program was set up to ensure that potential risks to health and safety from individual workstations are assessed and that appropriate corrective actions are taken to eliminate the risks identified. Prior to the implementation of the program, an office ergonomics survey was conducted in 2007 to identify the magnitude of ergonomics issues in the office. This survey defines some of the areas to focus on in terms of office ergonomics through assessing the musculoskeletal complaints. The results of this assessment of musculoskeletal complaints can be classified into areas which are related to the screen, mouse and keyboards, chairs and table height (see figure 1).