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Are you sitting comfortably? The question employers need to ask

With so much of the working day for many spent at a computer, it's vital that workstations are properly set up if health problems are to be avoided. Managers need to know their responsibilities.

Ever since computers became commonplace at work, there has been an awareness that poorly designed and arranged computer equipment, furniture and workstations can potentially lead to discomfort, back and neck pain, RSI (repetitive strain injury) and other musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Research has found that during a three-year period, almost two-thirds (64%) of office workers in the UK suffered from ailments associated with being in an inappropriate workspace environment.

Around a third of respondents (34%) complained of back pain or aching shoulders (31%), a quarter reported neck pain (25%) or headaches (24%), and roughly a fifth said they had sore wrists or arms (21%) or eye strain (18%) because of inappropriate workspace.

Back pain, arthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) account for a third of all GP referrals and cause 9.5 million lost working days each year.

Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure that workstations are properly risk assessed and meet minimum requirements specified by the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. They are also supposed to encourage regular breaks or changes of activity, provide eye tests on request and supply appropriate health and safety information.

Some new research commissioned by Fellowes suggests that many managers are falling short of their requirements with some 78% of UK companies being in breach of the regulations. The problem is exacerbated for mobile workers and those who 'hot-desk', of whom only 13% reported having had a workstation risk assessment.

Health and the workplace depends on good management. Acas works with organisations of all sizes to enhance employment relations and improve all aspects of the workplace environment, including for health. The pdf  Advisory booklet - Health Work and Wellbeing [603kb] contains more information about how managers can deal with and avoid common health problems such as MSDs.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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