A weblog dedicated to Ergonomics education, dicussion and debate. This emerging field has the power to transform industry, business and the lives of ordinary people for the better. The Industrial Athlete intends to encourage and document our profession's vision of an ergonomically-friendly future!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sunday Spotlight: The Office Chair

The office chair. The primary focal point of stereotypes when it comes to the public's perception of ergonomics...

... and tonight, the focus of this week's Sunday Spotlight!

For the office worker, it is the most important of equipment that they come into contact during the course of their day. The vast majority of their productive time is spent while seated in these devices. The ability, or lack thereof, of the chair to accomodate the worker's needs can prevent or actively encourage muscloskeletal disorders.

The negative issues surrounding ergonomically-incorrect chairs are numerous, a few examples being:

  • A chair lacking vertical adjustment may result in a worker being too low to type properly at their workstation, causing soft tissue compression in the wrists. Coversely, the worker may be situated too high, forcing them to hunch over, which can lead to back problems. Furthermore, a chair that is too high for the user can cause soft tissue compression in the lower thighs, impeding blood circulation in the lower legs.

  • A lack of a proper lumbar back support causes the lower back muscles to engage in static contractions, which can lead to lower back pain over time.

  • A lack of armrests forces the user to support the weight of their arms themselves, which can lead to fatigue and pain.

And so on and so forth...

As I eluded to in the introduction to this post, chairs are an ergonomically-complex subject. However, a few general rules apply when selecting an office chair for your business...

  1. Adjustability is everything. From the chair height, to the armrests and the back support, the ability to change the layout of the chair to suit the person who will be working in it is crucial. Ergonomic interventions become a lot less complicated when you have the relativity of many different settings, rather than the absolutes of only a few.
  2. Back supports are a must. Sitting for hours on end without a proper back support will expose the lower back muscles to punishing static forces that will mess them up in the long run. A back support that allows the lumbar curve of the lower vertabrae to be retained will greatly reduce these forces.
  3. Train office workers on how to properly adjust their chairs, and what they are designed to do. The latest, most ergonomically-compliant chair on the market will yield you no returns if the person sitting in it does not know how to use it. They will continue utilizing old postures out of habit unless they are instructed and convinced otherwise.


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