Seeing what you’re working on may prevent injury

Neck injuries can arise when you have to constantly move your neck, rather than just your eyes, to see what you’re working on.


If you find yourself having to contort into yoga-esque positions just to see screens, boards and papers at work, it might be time to think about visibility in your workspace.

The ability to see what you’re working on correctly without having to turn or lean your body excessively is an important factor in avoiding workplace injury, according to Dr. Farrokh Sharifi, a researcher in Ryerson University’s Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. He says most people don’t take enough time to think about how their sightlines are affecting their productivity and health.

“People often talk about where to place the arms or the hands, but not where to place the eyes or the monitor. We need to draw attention to vision problems at work, which have not been the primary focus of workplace ergonomics to this point,” Sharifi said.

Sharifi has been developing a way to measure the visual quality of a workspace by combining mechanical knowledge with biology and human anatomy. His research shows that the average person takes in 90 per cent of his or her environmental knowledge through the eyes, meaning that even when working with your hands your eyes still instinctively lead the way.

As a result, visibility plays a huge part in the decisions you make in how to position yourself when doing anything visual, such as working, and bad positioning leads to strained motions that can result in injury.

“If there isn’t enough visibility, a worker has to move (his or her) neck or strain into an uncomfortable position. We just assume people will position themselves but what we don’t think about is that the position they adopt could lead to injury,” Sharifi said.

Sharifi recommends placing objects in your workspace such as pens, papers, monitors and bulletin boards in such a way so that your range of motion doesn’t have to extend much beyond the neutral point of your joints. For example, place bulletin boards behind or directly beside your monitor and keep your most-commonly used gadgets and doodads closer to your standard seated position.

Enormous, television-sized monitors may be all the rage but Sharifi suggests they may not be the best choice for your eyes and neck.

“One of the problems with gigantic monitors is you have to constantly move your neck around to see things in the corners, and that is not good for repetitive strain injuries,” he said.

Sharifi also recommends placing monitors, especially LCD displays, at least 50 centimetres away to avoid being bombarded by the low-level radiation that emanates from them.

Use larger fonts to maintain screen visibility from a distance and help you avoid straining your back.

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