Why Are Cumulative Trauma Injuries
We are the first generation of human beings to spend so many hours sitting in limited postures doing small movements under stress as part of our daily work routine on such a large scale. Already, estimates are that nearly 50 million people have computers on their desks at work. The number is growing steadily. By now almost everyone has heard of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as a computer-related problem. The seemingly sudden appearance of these "cumulative trauma injuries" is directly related to the evolution of desktop computing in the modern workplace.
The United States bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than three hundred thousand cases of cumulative trauma in are now occurring in American business each year. Some of those include work settings with a history of the problem such as meat packing houses, grocery clerks, sign interpreters and others. But looking at the history it is clear that the annual rate has risen very dramatically since 1984 when desktop computers began to appear. As processing speed increased, prices came down, and the software market matured, computers spread into our work environment at an amazing pace.
So, unfortunately, did cumulative trauma injuries.
What's happening now is typical of the appearance of any new technology in human history. It took the industrial revolution for us to learn that as a society we wanted safe places to work, free of the dangers of falling into vats of molten steel or having to breathe toxic chemicals. At first, most people didn't give it much thought until the scale of the injuries became clear.
It may seem strange to compare the current situation to the industrial revolution, but the analogy makes sense. Once again we have jumped into a new technology and allowed our economy to rely on it, and now we have some lessons to learn from the first generation of users. Just as the captains of industry discovered that it made business sense to protect workers in the factory, so to must executives and managers learn the lesson today.
There is risk in the very nature of extended computer use. To not respect these inherent boundaries is to risk losing the most dedicated and hardest working employees, to pay out exorbitant costs for insurance, overtime, rehiring and retraining, and be required to pay for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It means to lose productivity and creativity from people who are unnecessarily working with discomfort and pain.
It just makes a lot of business sense to make sure that people are comfortable at their computers and protected from the risk of injury.
Additional ergonomics articles from Onsight
Initial Thoughts on Cumulative Trauma
Ergonomics - A Brief Definition
An Ergonomics Overview
Breaking Down the Myths
Management Role in Ergonomics
The Ergonomics of Sitting
Where Should the Keyboard Be?
Using Palm Support
A Warning About Wrist Braces
Keyboard Shortcuts for Microsoft Word
An Ergonomics Reading List