What to do when an employee has back pain?

Under HSE 1992 DSE Act, you are obligated to make reasonable adjustments to their workstation.

If they are in pain due to an injury, change in medical circumstance or simply from sitting down at a computer all day, you need to arrange to check if their equipment is suitable for them.

However, you will also benefit as being in pain affects productivity and mood.  So both will lift as their pain eases and we all like to be looked after and feel valued and appreciated!

Different types of pain will need different types of adjustment.

For instance:

RSI:

If they are suffering from RSI, is everything set up so they

  1. Can they sit with their arms supported directly in line with the keyboard (on armrests), with everything in a neutral position, to reduce any further stress on the area of discomfort?
  2. Can you identify the cause and reduce the risk factors contributing towards it?
  3. Can you adjust their work pattern to allow for recovery?
  4. Are they seeking medical help?

LOWER BACK PAIN (including sciatica and slipped disc)

  1. Can you identify if their sitting posture is contributing towards it, for instance, are they slouching forward?
  2. If they are, is there anything in their workstation set up that can discourage this and support a more upright, supported posture, such as correct positioning of the screens or keyboard?
  3. Do they take regular breaks from their work?
  4. Are their workstation and chair adjustable to suit their own postural needs and allow them to sit correctly?
  5. Are they seeking medical help, such as physiotherapy?

If you are struggling with the above, a workstation assessment by an experienced ergonomist is required, to assess if there are simple but key changes that can be done or if replacement equipment is needed.  Sometimes even the smallest of adjustments can make the biggest of differences, including a readjustment of their chair (so often people don’t realise how they can change the set up of their chair with a pull of a lever) and screen positioning.   It will stop them undoing any good work a physio or osteopath is doing as soon as they sit back down to work (as it reduces the tension and pain just building back up again and allows the body to heal).

HOW THE RIGHT CHAIR WILL HELP

Can their chair be adjusted to provide the extra support they need?   Once a back is sensitized to pain, the following features are critical in helping them recover from pain.  Depending on the condition, and their own postural makeup, will depend on the exact solution, but these are the key factors:

  • Lumbar support:  Adjustable in height and depth to support their own back curve, otherwise the back will tend to slip into a slouch, or they will perch forward and tension will build up from holding their posture.
  • Armrest support:  Adjustable in height and preferably depth, to keep the shoulders relaxed and arms and wrists supported in a neutral posture
  • Backrest:  Adjustable in angle to allow for different types of postural requirements
  • Thigh support:  Adjustable seat depth to support the smallest to the tallest user.

To help with the above, do not hesitate to contact us for advice.   info@corrigo-design.com