Whether their organisation’s policy allows it or not, employees increasingly bring their mobile phones and tablets into the workplace for web browsing, playing games, using apps, checking emails, and for social networking on their breaks. It is anticipated that these devices may eventually become the main equipment used for work.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has arrived to workplaces, and it has led to pressures with security, data protection issues, and to arguments over whether employers have the right to access data off personal devices. But what are the health implications of using personal mobile devices in the workplace?
With computers, if a workstation is not set up correctly for an individual, without a suitably adjusted chair, or without a separate keyboard and screen (at the correct height), we all know that users would not be at the correct posture. With BYOD, this is likely to be even harder to control, especially if the devices become the main hardware used by the individual and can lead to many musculoskeletal issues.
- Holding a device means that the spine is curved in a non-neutral alignment, increasing pressure to the spinal discs, and to neck and back muscles and ligaments.
- Repetitive, awkward thumb and finger movements.
- Static, awkward postures of the neck and shoulders to read the small phone and tablet screens.
- Awkward neck, shoulder and wrist postures from long-duration phone calls.
- Excessive gripping of the devices.
- Eye strain or blurred vision and headaches from viewing small screens for long periods
- Reduced blinking rates when staring at screens, leading to dry and tired eyes.
Since the Display Screen Equipment Regulations were introduced in the early 1990s, technology has changed significantly, but the principles of the regulations still apply.
- Customised, specific training and risk assessment
With BYOD, one package of training and risk assessment may not fit all, as each employee may have different devices and different risk levels. In the past, everyone was provided with the same computer, monitor and keyboard, except where individuals required something more specialist. With BYOD everyone’s equipment will be different, and, more importantly, will not belong to the employer, but the employee.
The training itself must be specific to the devices being used. It should cover advice such as:
- Limiting the length and frequency of calls, texts, and emails
- Using compatible headsets, speaker phones, or landlines
- Taking frequent breaks from mobile devices
- Alternating fingers when using buttons and touchscreens
- Reducing keystrokes with text shortcuts
- Maintaining a neutral wrist posture and alternate hands when holding the devices
- Using cases with hand straps on them to reduce gripping
- Focusing on neck posture and avoiding excessive looking down
- External keyboards and stands
There are various keyboards and stands available for mobile devices, showing that the industry is aware of the problem. Mobile device keyboards are generally too small to maintain a neutral typing position. Ideally, they should be the correct size and type for the user, and compatible with the mobile device.
Most people already use their mobile in the hand, making it difficult to change the way they use their equipment, however responsible employers should consider providing training and advice to ensure they are aware of the risks and how to minimise them.
This article was brought to you courtesy of Fortune Law (www.fortunelaw.com)