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  Many people are affected by discomfort or injury resulting from the use of equipment which is not suited or not adjusted for our bodies. If you have ever experienced pain in your hands after a lengthy session of typing, or have had back pain after sitting at a desk for a long time, you will be able to imagine how much a person’s productivity would be affected if these minor pains became persistent injury. Discomfort in the hands, back, shoulders, elbows, and neck can be caused by overuse or misuse of the machines and equipment we use everyday, and it is because of this that students and office workers alike are now learning about and applying the principles of ergonomics, the practice of arranging an environment to suit the person using it.

  While based in science and engineering, ergonomics has practical applications that anyone can use on their working or studying environment. How you position and use your computer, for example, can make all the difference. Pay attention first of all to the height of the monitor. Too low and you are constantly looking down; too high and you are constantly straining your neck to look up. Try to adjust the height of your monitor so that the first line of text is at eye-level. You can also reduce the risk of discomfort in your wrists and the tendons of your hands by making sure you type so that your wrists are suspended in the air, not resting against the desk top. By making sure the mouse is right next to the keyboard, you can avoid having to stretch to reach it, and therefore avoid unnecessary stress on your shoulder, elbow and wrist.

  How you sit is also of vital importance in avoiding injury and discomfort, a fact which has directed chair design in recent year. Today, it is easy to find ergonomically designed chairs which promise to reduce stress on your back and legs when sitting for long periods, but it is not always easy to decide which one is best for you. You’ll want to make sure the chair is adjustable in height and has a back which is at a 90 to 110 degree angle to the chair seat. Whether or not the chair has a reclining back or armrests is more a matter of personal preference than ergonomics, and as with using a computer, the best way to avoid discomfort is to adjust the equipment to suit your body; the chair should be not so high as to cause strain on your legs, but not so low as to make typing uncomfortable.

  The principles of ergonomics make good sense, but the suggestions made above will reduce but not eliminate discomfort associated with long periods at a desk. The best advice for avoiding repetitive stress injury at work or home is tried and true – take breaks. Make sure you rest periodically during your work period. Five or ten minutes every hour should do it. Take a short walk, make a cup of tea, anything which interrupts the repetitive motions required when working or studying at a desk. The human body is designed for action, not long periods of inaction, so regardless of how comfortable your surrounding environment is, you will feel some discomfort if you stay in one position too long.

  Questions

  Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.

  Write your answer in box 1-4 on your answer sheet.

  1) Ergonomic chairs

  A. Make sitting for long periods comfortable.

  B. Should always have armrests.

  C. Should accommodate both short and tall people.

  D. Should allow the sitter to recline.

  2) The best way to avoid discomfort while doing office work is

  A. To make sure to keep yourself hydrated by drinking liquids.

  B. To make sure your chair suits your body.

  C. To adjust your computer according to the principles of ergonomics.

  D. To make sure you don’t stay in the same position for too long.

  3) If your computer’s monitor is not at an appropriate height,

  A. You will increase stress on your eyes.

  B. You will increase stress on your neck.

  C. You will reduce your efficiency at work.

  D. You should adjust your seat height.

  4) Ergonomics

  A. Is something which comes into play mostly in the design phase of equipment.

  B. Depends on both the designer and the user to be effectively employed.

  C. Is based on traditional ideas.

  D. Is most useful to students.

  Complete the summary with words (A-L) from the box below.

  Write the correct letter A-L in boxes 5-10 on your answer sheet.

  People who ____(5)____ for long periods of time are at risk of ____(6)____ resulting from prolonged ____(7)____ on the muscles of the body. To combat this risk, you should ensure your environment is ____(8)____ to your body. You must also make sure that you change ____(9)____ often, as the human body is not suited to stay still for too long. Taking breaks is also highly recommended, especially if these breaks involve ___(10)___ around.

  A breaks B adjusted C positions

  D rest E sit F injury

  G stress H painful I suits

  J moving K motion L chairs

  Answers

  1) C

  2) D

  3) B

  4) B

  5) E

  6) F

  7) G

  8) B

  9) C

  10) J

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