Anything that puts our musculoskeletal system at risk of getting injured can be considered an ergonomic hazard. Comparatively, working from home does not pose as much a threat to this system as working at sites or in fields. But, still, ergonomic hazards exist even in our homes and can be potentially harmful to us as well as even to the people living with us.
In this article, I’ll be exploring ten common work-from-home ergonomic hazards to avoid
Extreme heat or cold is potentially very harmful. And at home, we sure can be exposed to either or both. For example, sitting just beside the AC for a long period of time can put you at the risk of a cold. If you have allergies like rhinitis and are reactive to cold temperatures, this is going to trigger a bout and have you itching on and on.
In the same way, handling hot objects like irons or pans straight from the oven can give you burns and make you irritable.
In men, extreme heat around the groin area has an effect on the testicles since the testes function at a lower temperature than the rest of your body.
This is why you have to be careful to keep the temperature in your workspace optimal. Switch off the AC when it is getting too cold. Use some gloves when you have to take stuff out of the oven. And, go have a cold bath when you feel too hot.
It is always a great idea to have a cold bath when you feel too hot, as this is going to help your body cool itself.
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Working from home means you are most likely working with your family around. Kids. Pets. Everyone is home.
While they can be easily overlooked, pets can become an ergonomic hazard, posing a threat not only to you but also to your gadgets and equipment.
A cute cat can amble into your workspace, and minutes after, it smashes a CPU or computer screen onto your thighs, destroying both the computer screen and injuring you.
In the same way, a dog can skitter around your kitchen, and in no time, some knife or potentially dangerous object is out of its rack. This is common.
We understand that you love your pets. But, hey, even your pets need to be guided by boundaries. When you work from home and have pets around, be sure to not let them out of your sight for even a minute.
Hold your cat while you work with your computer. Settle eyes on your dog while you work in the kitchen.
Pets at work can also cause allergies.
All workers have deadlines once in a while, whether or not they work from home. To be too honest, and we all know, deadlines can be a bad itch. With a deadline drawing closer, your mind goes into panic mode, and you just want to get things over with, so you can fall onto the bed and let out a number of deep sighs.
Accidents can occur when you’re in a rush to finish something up. While it might seem like a great idea to rush in a bid to beat your deadline, rushing is a common ergonomic hazard.
When driven by what I call deadline anxiety, you take to rushing, and your mind is snatched from a number of things. You immediately lose sight of your safety and focus on one thing: your deadline.
For example, a chef who has to deliver a meal by a speculated time but feels like he might be running late will no longer pay attention to the sharp knife. He will keep cutting and cutting, not minding that he might break the skin.
In the same way, a writer will keep writing and writing without paying attention to a migraine.
Try not to rush when you work from home. This is hard to pull off but possible. Take deep breaths. Try to set a goal and stick to it. Or even better, begin doing your work on time.
The bad thing about working from home is that you may give too much room for procrastination. This is a source of work anxiety, so try not to procrastinate. Begin doing the task once it comes.
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4. Poorly Designed Work Space
At home, where you work is very crucial. A poor workspace poses a threat to you and to anyone who stops by.
It is easy to think anywhere within the house counts as a good workspace. But this is false. A good workspace has to be safe and has to be comfortable as well.
Going for a comfortable space but ignoring safety is wrong and harmful. Poorly designed workspace causes ergonomic hazards.
Yes, your bedroom may be a comfortable place to work, but how about the risk of hitting your head or back on the bed frame when you want to stretch?
Your sitting room may be great as well, but how about the risk of being irritated by noises?
Design your workspace in a way that eliminates threats to your safety. Make sure the roof is high enough so you don’t have to bend over to step into your workspace. Make sure the floor is smooth and there are no spikes or projections on it.
5. Faulty Equipment
Even at home, you will have the need for equipment. If not often, then once in a while. Most of the jobs that can be done at home will require that you use electrical appliances. Laptops. Computers. Phones.
Be sure that you use only equipment that is usable. Do not use laptops that have electrical faults, so you don’t get an electric shock. Use only electric irons that have no dents.
Your equipment also includes your chair and your tables. So be sure that all the chairs and tables in your workspace are perfectly functioning. Your chair should not bend to one side. Your table should not have wobbly legs so that stuff doesn’t fall off it.
Use proper equipment always, and use them the right way. A piece of faulty equipment can prove to be an ergonomic hazard.
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6. Improper Posture
Posture is considered bad when it puts your muscles, tendons, and bones at risk of soreness. Have you ever sat at the computer for a while and then felt as though your neck was on fire? That was the effect of bad posture called tension neck syndrome.
Since we don’t move about much when we walk from home, it is important to pay attention to our posture. To defeat bad posture, we have to understand why it is happening in the first place.
Many factors contribute to bad posture, but a few are:
- Habit: when we have considered bad posture to be normal for too long, we start to think it is right. That is, we forget that it is, in fact, bad for us. To defeat this, we just have to understand what good posture really is. A rule of the thumb is to remember to keep your spine straight at all times. Don’t curve it too much. Stand with your spine straight, not slouching. Sit with your back resting on the chair, your legs flat. Try not to lean forward.
- Faulty equipment: faulty equipment is another reason people have issues with posture when working from home. As mentioned earlier, a bad chair will have you sitting in a bad way. And a bent-over table will have you bending. The very way a poor workspace will keep you very uncomfortable. If your workspace is too tight, you will notice that you angle your legs weirdly, or keep your arms some way, etc.
Whether or not you are working from home, you just have to breathe fresh air. Keeping this in mind, make sure your workspace is well ventilated.
Poor ventilation poses a threat to many systems in your body. Dusty, poorly ventilated spaces will trigger an allergic reaction like asthma, hay fever, or allergic rhinitis.
It also puts you at risk of having migraines and headaches. It has been shown that people who work in poorly ventilated spaces have more intense headaches than people who work in airy and properly ventilated spaces.
Be sure to dust your workspace properly.
Open all the windows you want open. And, if you can, have an Ac put up in your space.
Please note that ventilation also includes breathing air that has a pleasant smell. It isn’t just enough that your workspace is properly aerated. It has to smell nice too.
Be sure that the air in your workspace smells nice. Avoid using too strong air fresheners and insecticides. And do not let trash remain where you work for long. Take it out as soon as you can.
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Some people who work from home still have to handle equipment that vibrates. Equipment that vibrates is a common cause of ergonomic hazards in the home.
Vibrations for extended periods are quite harmful to your musculoskeletal system. The effects of vibration on this system can be called Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome. The symptoms are similar to tension neck syndrome but much worse.
People who suffer HAVS usually present with symptoms that include: blanching when their fingers come in contact with cold temperature, tingling and lowered sensation (a decreased ability to feel touch or pressure), pain and sometimes cold, and progressive loss of strength.
So, it helps to take breaks in between when you have been exposed to vibration.
For example, take breaks in between if you have to use the drill. Use it for, let’s say, five to ten minutes, then put it down and go have yourself some coffee.
Should you notice any symptoms of HAVS, it is advisable that you put the vibratory object down for a while. That is, don’t work for now until the symptoms pass.
Good lighting in your workspace is a necessity. Your eyes are the organ of sight and are affected directly by light intensity and quality.
When your workspace is too bright, you put your retina at risk. Too bright light can damage your retina permanently. Sort of in the way looking directly at the sun for too long can.
Put off all the overly bright bulbs in your office, especially the colored ones, most especially the colored ones which flicker. These bulbs may be aesthetic, decorating your office in a way that makes you feel good, but they are bad for you.
If you face the window directly, there is a chance that too much sunlight is entering your eyes. It might be time to move away. If closing the window is going to affect ventilation, then move.
Also, avoid staring at your computer screen for too long. The computer screen is capable of further damaging your eyes if you have issues with your sight.
Put on protective glasses: it is always a great idea to put on anti-glare glasses if you have to stare into the computer for too long because these glasses might be helpful in blocking the blue light.
Blue light, more than other light wavelengths, decreases the production of melatonin and can decrease the quality of one’s sleep.
Just as you avoid overly bright rooms, avoid dimly lit rooms too. Low lights also have an effect on your eyes. When a room is too dark, you will have to focus more. And the strain is going to cause symptoms that range from mild headaches to migraines.
Keep your room just properly lit up!
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Often, even people who work from home have to deal with noise problems. This ergonomic hazard in the home can be highly disruptive
Noise is so harmful because there is only so much sound energy that our ears can deal with. The sound crosses this boundary, and we have got ourselves some problems.
As much as you can, put out all the noise around you. If you live around an airport or a factory, putting on some protective earbuds is a great idea. These will help block some harmful frequencies.
Do not use earphones for extended periods, especially when the volume is high. We understand that some music keeps the mojo up, but tone it down a bit for your ears’ sake.
Set an earphone time. Decide that you will only be using earphones for a particular period of time each day, and stick to it.
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