Ten years ago, when the pain from my own repetitive strain injury (RSI) was too terrible to ignore anymore, my employer at the time got someone in to do a workstation assessment for me.
The assessment took about 20 minutes during which the assessor asked me a series of questions about my workstation. These included: is your chair adjustable and is your screen at eye level? (Chair—yes; screen—no. I was full-time on a laptop thanks to hot desking. But that’s a blog for another day.)
The assessor didn’t ask me much about how I used my workstation, aside from ‘did I take breaks?’ When I told him no, he made a note of it.
He didn’t ask to see me work at my workstation. And I don’t remember him showing me how to do anything differently. He did write things down, and my employer got a report. But I don’t remember ever seeing the report myself.
My RSI got worse and I eventually had to stop working for several years.
My workstation assessment hadn’t worked. Why? Because that assessor, like so many others, made an evaluation of the equipment I was using, but not HOW I was using it. Yes, my chair was adjustable, but he had no idea that, at the time, I thought it was more comfortable to sit with my legs crossed and folded under me. I never put my feet on the floor!
Workstation assessments need to be more than tick box exercises that do nothing more than ensure an employer is meeting their minimum legal requirements.
Now that display screen equipment is so pervasive in our lives—think smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop—we are becoming more and more susceptible to injuring ourselves through persistent, unsafe use of these devices.
It’s time workstation assessments look beyond the workstation.