Ergonomicsthe science of people-machine relationshipshas been a buzzword in the business world for years. But as more and more students use computers for extended periods of time at school, ergonomics experts say they are starting to see ailments linked to poor ergonomics among school-age children.
The problem, according to one expert, is that a desk that is the perfect height for writing is often too high for comfort when typing on a computer or looking at a monitor. Therefore, schools should consider supplying fully adjustable workstationsor risk related consequences.
Here’s what else schools can do to minimize the risks:
1. Chairs: The seat should be low enough so feet can rest on the floor, yet high enough that forearms and hands are at the proper angle to the keyboard. Chairs should have height adjustability to make sure students can achieve proper posture, back tilt to let students adjust eye-to-monitor distance, and a broad seat and back to allow for adequate comfort.
2. Keyboards: If students bend their arms at the elbow and hold their forearms straight ahead and parallel to the floor, their elbows should be at the same height as the keyboard.
3. Monitors: The display should be at a height that doesn’t reflect light in a user’s eyes. (Minimizing overhead light also will help to reduce glare.) Set the monitor at a comfortable distance for viewing, about 20 inches from the eyes, and adjust brightness and contrast. Wipe away dust and fingerprints, use an antireflection screen if possible, and encourage students to take breaks often.
Ergoteacher.com (http://www.ergoteacher.com) provides free ergonomic training and includes an “Adopt a School” program, in which schools can register for sponsorship online. Corporate sponsors are then approached to donate ergonomically safe furniture to the schools. The sponsors receive publicity for their goodwill, and children get proper ergonomic training.