Computer screens: how to work safely

How to work safely with computer screens? What are the risks of working with a computer? What preventive measures should be taken? All the answers are found in the brochure For a work without risks of the National Institute of Safety and Health at Work.

Today computers are part not only of our work, but also of our life. Unlike what happens with most other work computers, which people do not usually have at home, the myriad of applications on the computer have meant that it has also been installed in the homes of a growing number of people.

The risks of working with a computer

The main risks derived from the use of computers they are associated with the display screens that are part of them. These risks are of two types: visual fatigue and musculoskeletal disorders.

Most of the health problems to which these risks can give rise can be prevented through good job design, correct work organization and adequate training and information for the worker.

Working with computer screens is not known to lead to visual diseases; However, if you work for a long time without resting, visual fatigue may appear, the manifestations of which can be redness of the eyes, itching and headache, among others; however, no visual damage has been detected. These are symptoms that disappear with rest.

As the computer work posture is essentially static and includes repetitive movements, this can lead to musculoskeletal problems, which can manifest as pain in the neck, shoulders, lower back, wrists and hands.

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The most common problem is carpal tunnel syndrome, due to an inflammation of the carpal nerve at the wrist level. The appearance of this type of damage is all the more likely the less ergonomic the working posture.

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What preventive measures should be taken?

The table-chair assembly should facilitate the change of posture and in any case should allow adopting a position similar to that indicated in the diagram below:

1. Thighs should be horizontal and feet flat on the floor. If necessary, a footrest should be used.

2. The angle formed by the arm and forearm must be equal to or greater than 90º and the forearms must be close to the body.

3. The top edge of the screen should be at eye level.

  • Leave a minimum space of 10 cm between the edge of the table and the space bar on the keyboard.
  • When typing, do not continually rest your wrist on the table.
  • Keep the mouse close to the keyboard so you don’t have to move your arm away from your body to use it, and keep your forearm flat on the table when you do.

It is important that the user knows and uses the adjustment possibilities of the various elements of the workstation so that they can adapt them as much as possible to their individual characteristics.

Prevent visual problems from the use of computer screens

The visual problems They have been greatly reduced with the introduction of flat screens, which have practically suppressed the reflections of their predecessors.

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However, it is still basic that the distribution of jobs be such that at the bottom of the screen there are no important light sources, such as windows, since the contrast between the brightness of the background (very bright) and the screen (low light) causes problems of adaptation of the eye and the consequent visual fatigue. That is why the workstations with screens should not be “looking at the windows” but side to them.

When working with screens is continuous and it is not possible to alternate it with other tasks, it is recommended to set breaks to reduce mental fatigue. The Technical Guide edited by the National Institute for Safety and Hygiene at Work recommends, as a guideline, breaks of 10 to 15 minutes for every 90 minutes of work with the screen. The legislation provides for the possibility of this issue being agreed upon in the Collective Agreements, and some of them include it.

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