The increased use of computers in forensic laboratories warrants a close look at workstation ergonomics.
Computers have revolutionized our lives. How many hours a day do you average sitting in front of one? We are willing to wager it is more than a few. There always seems to be a reason to turn on the computer and start working away and before you realize it a couple of hours or more have gone by.
Working in a forensic laboratory is no different, in fact there is a good chance you spend many hours at a computer workstation entering data and researching databases. Now, with digital forensics becoming so important, extracting evidence from laptops and cell phones is commonplace and computer work keeps increasing. As we continue to become bound to our keyboard,mouse, and monitor chances of developing pain in the neck, wrists, back, and shoulders grow with each passing minute, hour, and day. By setting up your computer workstation optimally and paying attention to a few key elements of positioning and alignment we can greatly reduce our chance of an ergonomic injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive stress injury.
The Science of Strain and Stress Prevention Ergonomics is simply the study of how humans interact with their environment. Used mostly in the context of work, it is how we physically perform our required work tasks. Ergonomics seeks to optimize the mechanics of the task to the physical structure and limitations of the human body in order to prevent musculoskeletal disorders. The idea is to design our workplaces and equipment to fit the users by taking into account how we interact with these tools,machines, and structures. The goals are to optimize human health and wellbeing while maintaining productivity and system performance.
The problem is that no two human bodies are identical. Therefore, there is no single “correct” posture or arrangement of computer, keyboard,monitor, and mouse. However, there are some basic guidelines to follow in setting up your workstation that will help minimize any potential for problems.One excellent place to begin is with the OSHA ergonomic eTool.1
Posture is the Key
We begin by conducting an honest evaluation of working posture. We are aiming for a balanced and neutral overall position. Let’s go from the top down.When sitting at your computer start by ensuring your workstation is arranged so that your head and neck are upright. In other words, the head, neck, and torso are in line and not bent down or back. Next, face forward. This seems like simple common sense, but one of the most common things we run into is people having their monitor or the keyboard off to one side, forcing them to twist the head, neck, or trunk while working. It is best if the trunk or torso is perpendicular to the floor. As light lean back into a good backrest is ok, but having to lean forward is asking for trouble.