Laptop hazard

I am a regular user of LapTop. I may spend a good 4-5 hours daily on my laptop. Recently Olivier who spends most of his time on a laptop started having wrist pains. For him as well as for me it is becoming an occupational hazard. What is needed to be done? I found an article which discusses this issue and would like to share it with you.

Ergonomic Tips for Using a Laptop Computer

Text partially adapted from Cornell University Ergonomics Web, Professor Alan Hedge

Laptop computers, also known as notebooks, are not recommended for use as primary computers that are used for numerous hours everyday. However, they have been adopted for just that purpose by thousands of people.

  1. Laptops are not designed ergonomically – The design and construction of laptops violates a basic ergonomic requirement for computer usage, namely that the keyboard and screen can be positioned independently for appropriate viewing and typing. In the very early days of personal computing, desktop devices also had the screen and keyboard integrated as a single unit, and this resulted in widespread complaints of musculoskeletal discomfort. By the late 1970’s a number of ergonomic design guidelines were written calling for the separation of screen and keyboard. The reasoning is simple. With a fixed design, if the keyboard is in an optimal position for the user, the screen isn’t, and if the screen is optimal the keyboard isn’t going to be placed properly. Even contemporary laptop designs fail to satisfy this basic ergonomic positioning requirement, which means that users must pay special attention to how they use their laptop in order to avoid muscular-skeletal disorders, headaches, fatigue, and similar complaints that result from non-ergonomic computer use.
  2. Laptop user type -  Are you an occasional user who works on your laptop for short periods of time or less than two hours per day? Are you a full-time user whose laptop functions as your main computer? Occasional users will have less risk of injury than full-time users, but all users should pay attention to how they use their laptop computers.
  3. Computer Posture – As explained above, laptops violate basic ergonomic design requirements, so using a laptop results in some tradeoff between either poor neck/head posture and poor hand/wrist posture.

Occasional users – Because the neck/head position is determined by the actions of large muscles, people who use their computers occasionally for short periods of time less than two hours can more easily compensate for neck posture than arm and wrist posture. Examples include:

o Find a comfortable, adjustable chair that allows you to recline very slightly.

o Angle the laptop screen so you can easily view the images with the least amount of neck deviation

Full-time users – Many people use these portable computers as fulltime laptop workstations. If you use your laptop frequently and for periods of longer than two hours, as is typical in workplace settings where a notebook computer may be the employee’s main computer, begin to sit in a correct computer posture consistently and utilize other ergonomic practices, including the following:

o Position the laptop on your desk/work surface directly in front of you.

o Set the unit’s height and screen angle so the images can be easily read without bending your neck. This may require that you elevate the laptop off the desk surface using a stable support surface, such as a computer monitor pedestal.

o If your desk height is satisfactory for your screen’s placement, attach a separate, full sized keyboard to your computer and use an independent mouse rather than the touch pad, trackball, or small joystick incorporated into your keyboard. Connecting ports for a keyboard and mouse can usually be found in the rear or side of your computer. However, there wireless devices have become increasingly popular.

o Place the separate keyboard on a negative-tilt keyboard tray connected beneath your desk surface. This helps ensure a neutral wrist posture.

o The mouse can be placed on an adjustable position mouse platform.

o Shoulders should be in a relaxed position and arms at your side, with elbows at a 90° position when typing. (Arms should not be splayed wide or extended to reach and use the mouse)

o Sit in a comfortable, adjustable chair with lumbar support and which allows you to sit at a slightly reclined position. This takes much weight off muscles and joints in the low back.

o Take “microbreaks” every half hour or so (including moving your eyes off the screen image to rest on distant objects for several seconds), perform desk stretches (neck, shoulder, arm, and leg stretches) at your desk occasionally,  and get up from your desk to move around or perform standing stretches every couple of hours.

o Follow the guidelines outlined in Ergo In Demand’s

  1. Laptop dimensions – Laptops are available with screens as large as 17″. However, bigger is not always better. Consider your likely usage. The larger the screen the more difficult it may be to use your laptop in mobile locations, such as airplanes or trains. On the other hand, if you enjoy DVDs, “wide screen” laptops are also be proportioned with screens of less height but wide viewing for DVD convenience. There are a number of smaller notebooks and ultra portable laptops on the market that provide more compact portability and lighter weight. Consider issues of screen size and screen resolution, as well. A small screen (e.g.12.1″) will be useful in mobile settings, but if the resolution is high (e.g. XGA – 1024 x 768), make sure that you can read the screen characters and can easily use the input device to point to areas on the screen. The smaller the laptop, the smaller the keyboard, so make certain that you can comfortably type on a keyboard that may be only 75% the size of a typical laptop’s keyboard.
  2. Laptop weight  – People who travel frequently and use their laptops on the road must consider the weight of the system they’ll be carrying. By “system” we mean the weight of the laptop plus the required accessories (e.g. power supply, spare battery, external disk drive, printer, etc.). Many lightweight portables can become as heavy as larger laptops after you add all the components into your carrying bag.  If your laptop and components weighs 10lbs or more, certainly consider using a pull-along laptop carry-on bag.  If you prefer a smaller bag and can comfortably carry your laptop, select a bag that is quality designed for that purpose and features a well padded shoulder strap system.


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