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Working healthy with computer (1)

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ICT ESSENCE with Bello Abdul’Azeez

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Although it is unlikely that computer equipment will be dangerous in itself, it can be used in ways which can be a hazard to health of staff. This article provides an overview of the risks relating to computer health and safety and provides some guidance on avoiding problems.


The Risks
With the increase in computer use, a number of health and safety concerns related to vision and body aches and pains have arisen. Many problems with computer use are temporary and can be resolved by adopting simple corrective action. Most problems related to computer use are completely preventable. However it is important to seek prompt medical attention if you do experience symptoms including:

- continual or recurring discomfort
- aches and pains
- throbbing
- tingling
- numbness
- burning sensation
- or stiffness

Seek help even if symptoms occur when you are not working at your computer.
Laptop computers can present particular problems due to small screens, keyboards and inbuilt pointing devices (e.g. a small portable mouse or touchpad). Prolonged use of laptops should be avoided. If using a laptop as a main computer (i.e. use as a normal desktop computer in addition to use as a portable), it is advisable to use the laptop with a docking station. This allows an ordinary mouse, keyboard and monitor to be used with the laptop. The main risks associated with using computers explained below:

Eye strain
Computer users can experience a number of symptoms related to vision including:

- Visual fatigue
- Blurred or double vision
- Burning and watering eyes
- Headaches and frequent changes in prescription glasses

Computer work hasn't been proven to cause permanent eye damage, but the temporary discomfort that may occur can reduce productivity, cause lost work time and reduce job satisfaction. Eye problems are usually the result of visual fatigue or glare from bright windows or strong light sources, light reflecting off the display screen or poor display screen contrast.

Musculoskeletal problems
These can range from general aches and pains to more serious problems and include:
- Upper limb disorders which can quickly lead to permanent incapacity
- Back and neck pain and discomfort
- Tension stress headaches and related ailments

These types of problem can be caused by:
- Maintaining an unnatural or unhealthy posture while using the computer
- Inadequate lower back support
- Sitting in the same position for an extended period of time
- An ergonomically poor workstation set up

Prevention is better than cure
Several relatively straightforward precautions can be taken by computer users to avoid problems.
Avoiding musculoskeletal problems, which include:
- Taking regular breaks from working at your computer - a few minutes at least once an hour
- Alternating work tasks
- Regular stretching to relax your body
- Using equipment such as footrests, wrist rests and document holders if you need to
- Keeping your mouse and keyboard at the same level
- Avoiding gripping your mouse too tightly - hold the mouse lightly and click gently
- Familiarise yourself with keyboard shortcuts for applications you regularly use (to avoid overusing the mouse)

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