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Many employees work on a computer five days a week, and make repetitive motions for prolonged periods of time. One consequence of such repetitive stress is cumulative trauma disorder (CTD). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011), CTD accounts for more than 50% of all occupational illnesses in the U.S. In particular, carpal tunnel syndrome, a type of CTD, accounted for the greatest number of days away from work, surpassing fractures and amputations.

Such injuries can have a detrimental effect on productivity. Workers may need to slow down or take breaks every so often, or they may become incapacitated for a length of time. They may require medical attention, medication, and ongoing therapy to alleviate the associated pain, inflammation, and other symptoms. Considering the loss of productivity and higher insurance premiums, it is important for management to be aware of any potential causes of CTD and seek effective solutions.

Paying attention to how employees sit and arrange their work areas can be a vital first step in minimizing the risk for CTD. Here are some tips to share with employees who work at a computer that may help increase comfort and decrease strain:

• Keep feet flat on the floor or on a footrest.

• Drink plenty of water to keep joints lubricated. Staying hydrated can reduce pain.

• Position the trunk and head vertically, with thighs parallel to the floor, and bend knees to approximately a 90° angle.

• Maintain elbows at keyboard height, also bent to a 90° angle, with forearms parallel to the floor.

• Keep wrists almost straight, and rest fingers comfortably on the keyboard.

• Take frequent breaks. Get up periodically to stretch or vary duties to include work away from the keyboard.

It is important for employers to take the appropriate steps to minimize the risk of CTD. Doing so today may result in increased productivity and lower rates of employee absenteeism and turnover tomorrow.

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