Improving Your Ergonomic Health Starts with You! by Yuseph Sleem, University Industrial Hygienist

The goal of ergonomics is to make work more comfortable and to improve both health and productivity. To meet these goals, the capabilities and limitations of personnel and their tools, equipment, workstations and furniture are considered in conjunction with the work and tasks being performed.

Individuals working from their desks or a computer workstation for the majority of their workday may experience discomfort ranging from back pain, to numbness in the wrist or fingers, to eye strain and headaches. These symptoms often manifest after working in a static position for prolonged periods. Discomfort can be more pronounced in individuals who tend to work in an awkward position, who use a great deal of force during specific duties, or who generally have a poorly configured workstation.

Improving your workstation ergonomics starts with you; the key is to take the necessary steps to make your workstation more ergonomically suitable to your specific needs. There are generally four main points of contact for proper ergonomic configuration of computer workstations, as follows (see illustration):

  1. Viewing Height: Top of the monitor should be aligned with user’s eye level to avoid constant bending of head & neck.
  2. Back Position: The chair seat should be adjusted so that the user is able to maintain the neutral S-shaped curvature of the back, and to avoid sitting in an awkward position that may cause strain to the back.
  3. Arm Position: The keyboard and mouse should be adjacent and at the level of the user’s elbows. Wrists should only be bent slightly, and kept in a neutral position.
  4. Leg Position: The user’s thighs should be parallel to the ground when seated, with the feet flat on the ground or resting on a foot rest.
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For additional information contact the Occupational Safety team, or attend a monthly Ergonomics Workshop - http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/Ergonomics.html

Spill Preparedness and Response by Chris Pettinato, Executive Director

When handling biological, chemical and radioactive materials, it is important to be both careful in your handling                 techniques to avoid spills and be well-prepared in the event a spill does occur.  When it comes to spill preparedness and response, knowing your capabilities and limitations is critical, as is timely notification of a spill.  EH&S provides spill guidance during Laboratory Safety training and provides spill response guidance on our website @ http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/chemspill.html.  Do not wait until you have a spill to become familiar with spill procedures.  
It is essential to become knowledgeable about the hazards of material BEFORE attempting to handle it.  Review the       Safety Data Sheet (SDS), review Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and inquire with experienced laboratory mates, or EH&S, if questions remain.  Know where your spill response equipment and emergency equipment (eyewash, overhead shower, fire extinguisher) are located, ensure they are readily accessible and functional, and be thoroughly familiar with their use and limitations. This is particularly important when working with hazardous materials “after hours” when EH&S may not be available for an immediate spill response. Regardless of time of day, day of week or size of spill, ALWAYS contact EH&S and Public Safety to report an incident. Contact information is readily accessible in your “EH&S Emergency Response and Waste Disposal Guide” posted in your laboratory.  EH&S encourages everyone to program these phone numbers into a personal cell phone for ready access in an emergency.  

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