In the early 21st century, a troubling trend emerged in the American workplace. Years spent working at a computer led to permanent and debilitating damage to the back, neck, shoulders, and arms of workers. The result was an explosion of carpal tunnel claims and nerve/tendon surgery.
Employers are partly responsible for the increased rate of musculoskeletal injuries (MSD), according to a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney, and can be held liable for some MSD-related injuries.
Posture and Back Support
The leading cause of back pain in American office spaces is poor posture, often caused by inadequate support when seated.
In addition to poor chair design, employees can injure their backs while seated in chairs without the proper amount of back support. Experts recommend that chairs have an adjustable seat back, preferably with an “S” shape to match the spine. The armrests and seat height should also be adjustable to meet the demands of different employees. Employers who fail to provide adequate seating and fail to address employee concerns may be liable for injuries.
(Article continues below Infographic)
MSDs are usually the result of a repetitive task that does a tiny amount of damage over time. A Chicago workers’ compensation attorney can point to instances of over-exertion and repetition as evidence of employer liability, especially when the employer refuses to allow employees to take breaks.
The latest trend to combat exertion through repetition in the workplace is the use of microbreaks. Here, instead of taking 15-minute breaks every other hour, employees take a break for a couple of minutes several times an hour. The breaks relieve stress and begin to reset the body’s internal exertion counter.
Though MSDs focus on the neck, back, and shoulder injuries, eye strain is an increasing problem. Screens in low-light areas can be hard to read, and glare from other light sources may lead to squinting or other poor reading practices.
Employers may be held responsible for eye injuries if they violate one of two conditions. First, they must properly light the work area. Second, they must provide enough space for employees to work safely at the computer screen without eye strain.
Musculoskeletal injuries will continue to be a problem in the workplace until all employers address the complex ergonomic problems office workers face. In the meantime, a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney is the best way to fight for compensation.