For Teachers and Students, Ergonomics Matters

The importance of teaching ergonomics young to aid in the development of good ergonomic habits and reduction of MSDs. Tips for student ergonomic safety, ergonomic safety for students with an after-school job, and ergonomic tips for teachers.

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”   

Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams

 “. . .We highly encourage educational gifts that stimulate the mind, inspire creativity, and provoke thought.  Let’s thoughtfully give our children something they can keep with them forever.  Let’s give them the gift of knowledge.”  

Karla Hernandez Mats, President of the United Teachers of Dade County, who represents the rights of more than 25,000 education professionals

Teachers can aid students in developing good ergonomic habits

Teachers work hard to help kids succeed by providing the gift of knowledge that can last a lifetime.   Their hard work and dedication can take its toll on the body.  

Historically, by the time an individual begins to feel pain from poor ergonomics,  it is too late to do anything about it.  That is still true except in the case of teachers.   Most teachers are young enough to have been taught about ergonomics.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has focused on minimizing ergonomic risk factors among the working population beginning with the OSH Act of 1970. 

Knowledge of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and their causes was established by the OSH Act of 1970; and the amendments to that act have only expanded the knowledge of risk factors of MSDs and how to minimize them.  Ergonomic workstations became the law briefly in 2000 under OSHA, which was repealed and is now part of a Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).  

Sitting without breaks can cause sitting-related problems

  • pressure sores, 
  • sciatica, 
  • hemorrhoids, and 
  • prostatitis.

Sitting without breaks can cause MSDs

Poor posture while doing keying activities (such as typing or data entry) and poor sitting posture can result in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that cause back pain, hand/wrist problems, neck and shoulder pain, and eye strain.   

These disorders include:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, 
  • Tendinitis, 
  • Sciatica, 
  • Herniated discs, and 
  • Low Back Pain

Prevention of sitting-related problems and MSDs through good ergonomic habits

It is finally possible to teach younger people how to do things to minimize their chances of developing preventable musculoskeletal disorders while interacting with computers and other devices. 

People 18 to 24 are also experiencing higher rates of prostatitis and hemorrhoids then in the past.   

Postures that can cause or minimize ergonomic hazards
Incorrect and correct sitting posture

Teacher Participation in Hazard Identification

All ergonomics programs include employee participation in hazard identification.  

The students of today will help identify and minimize the hazards experienced in the workplaces of tomorrow in new areas such as robotics.  

Having teachers who can help students understand how to minimize ergonomic risk factors and develop good ergonomic habits can greatly reduce the number of students who become disabled as a result of a MSDs in the future.

Ergonomic Risk Factors Experienced by Students

Ergonomics can now be applied to students since they are doing many of the tasks at a young age that lead to musculoskeletal disorders in adults in the work-force.   

Today, children begin using computers and doing repetitive tasks, such as gaming, sometimes as young as five.  The WHO has designed Gamers Syndrome.  

Gamer Girl - WHO's designation of Gamer Syndrome
Musculoskeletal disorders don’t always happen in the office

Teacher Tips for student ergonomic safety

  • Set up or adjust student’s computer workstation so it allows the student to sit in an ergonomic posture.  
  • Limit computer use to 30 minutes at a time.  Make sure students are active during breaks.  
  • Avoid overloading backpacks.  It should not weight more than 10 – 15 percent of the student’s body weight.
  • Students should limit the amount of time spent playing computer games.  
  • Switch between games that allow use of  different controllers to prevent MSDs of the thumbs.

Teacher Tips for ergonomic safety among students with an after-school job

  • Avoid heavy lifting, carrying; 
  • Avoid working with your hands overhead; 
  • Avoid bending at the back / waist; 
  • Avoid repetitive motions;
  • Work with employer to find better ways to work using ergonomic principals.

Ergonomic tips for teachers  

Teachers can minimize risk factors for sitting-related pain and MSDs by the following: 

  • Set up the computer workstation in an ergonomically correct position for the individual teacher. 
  • Stand up and take a break at least once every two hours
  • Avoid bending at the back / waist for long periods of time while working with students.  
  • Bending for long periods is a risk factor for low back pain (even if it is done to aid students); so sit down periodically or squat for short periods of time.

Teachers experience additional ergonomic hazards

Teachers experience ergonomic hazards that most office workers experience, such as increased rates of musculoskeletal disorders.  

Teachers have additional work-related hazards, such as workplace violence, and are known to experience a loss of their voice.   

MSDs are painful and often disabling injuries.  MSDs usually occur gradually over a period of weeks, months, and years.  

MSDs are also referred to as cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs), repetitive stress injuries, and occupational exertion syndrome. 

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Author: Melanie Loomos

I was a court reporter for 10 years then became an inventor. I invented The Buttpillow™ and was granted a patent called the "Pillow with Cantilever Supports." At the same time, I also submitted a patent for "The Carpal Tunnel Chair," which I was advised I did not get. After R&D on The Buttpillow™, the patent for the "Ergonomic Seating Cushion" was filed and later amended to include an embodiment for women during pregnancy. The USPTO granted the "Ergonomic Seating Cushion" patent in late 2002. Subsequently, in 2003, I also invented Ergosoft™ break reminder software to remind people to take breaks with an Ergo-Tip™ so people can identify and minimize ergonomic risk factors around them.

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