Cumulative Trauma Disorders refers to any of many physical problems or pains that can result from improper or excessive use of a computer display or terminal. Cumulative trauma disorders are the single principal reason behind occupational disorders in USA and a major workplace concern all over the globe. It is known by other names like repetitive motion disorders, work-related muscular and skeletal disorders, or repetitive strain injuries. These are injuries of muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels and nerves.
Office workers with regular use of laptops and personal computers for daily tasks like data entry, coding or word processing are highly exposed to CTDs. This is because these tasks require performing repetitive motions at a fast pace, which is often coupled by restricting bodily movements or sitting in uncomfortable posture for long durations.
Apart from these, there are some other risk factors for CTD as well:
1. Pushing, pulling, gripping and lifting
2. Repetitive motions
3. Awkward or static postures
4. Mechanical compression of tissue by using tools with rough or sharp edges that press against skin of your palm
5. Stress, mental or physical
6. Fatigue due to insufficient breaks or time for recuperating energy
8. Rapid movement of body parts
Commonly known CTDs include Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, ulnar nerve compression, rotator cuff tendonitis and flexor tendonitis.
CTDs are a concern for HR professionals as it is their prime responsibility to keep the workforce in best shape. Such diseases reduce the employee’s efficiency and can cause permanent damage if not treated in time. Therefore, it is in the hands of HR to put in proper ergonomic practices in place for all the employees and set a model example for the employees to follow. Regular fitness initiatives and reminders to employees for ensuring proper posture, taking frequent breaks and doing simple exercises to relax their joints and muscles go a long way in preventing CTDs.
Other steps to consider in designing an ergonomic workplace are:
1. Selecting the proper chair, whose height can be adjusted and is capable of providing lumbar support. The feet must be flat on the floor and thighs must be almost parallel to the floor.
2. The computer monitor must be at least 18 inches from the face and 2 to 3 inches above eye level. Steps must be taken to control screen glare.
3. All work related equipment that is frequently used must be placed at a comfortable reach.
4. Invest in adjustable keyboards and telephone headsets to provide comfort to employees.
5. The shoulders should remain relaxed and elbows must be at 90 degrees with the shoulders while typing.
In case an employee shows signs of CTD, it must be immediately consulted with the doctor. It is highly discouraged to try to treat a CTD on your own.