Computer safety

 

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Computer safety

a man enjoying connecting to others using the internet

What's coming up?

Using a computer can be great fun, but you do need to keep some key health and safety aspects in mind.

In this activity, you will find out about sitting correctly and managing other common hazards when using your computer.

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Good posture

Whether you use a computer for five minutes or five hours a day, try to get into the habit of sitting correctly and maintaining good posture.

As time passes, it's easy to relax your sitting position and begin to slump in your chair, which can lead to neck and back pain or headaches.

Let's look at how to avoid these health issues.

a graphic of someone sitting correctly and comfortably at a desk and using a computer
a close up of someone using a mouse while keeping their forearm parallel to the ground

Sitting correctly

When sitting at your desk, it is important to sit in a position that won’t strain your back, shoulders, neck or any other art of your body. Consider the following:

  • Keep your back straight and your neck and head facing forward and in a neutral position
  • Position your chair close to the desk to avoid leaning forward
  • Keep forearms parallel to the ground when using a mouse or keyboard.
a graphic of a keyboard and mouse when viewed from above

Positioning the keyboard and mouse

Your keyboard should be on the desk directly in front of you so you can use it without having to twist or over-extend your arms.

Your mouse should be next to the keyboard with ample space around it so that you can easily move it forward, back, left or right.

Positioning your feet

You should be able to sit at your desk or workstation with your feet flat on the floor or flat on an ergonomically-designed footrest. It is important that you don’t sit with your feet dangling in the air or in any other position that may cause strain on your back.

a close up of someone sitting on a chair at a desk, with their feet flat on the floor
a graphic of a typical computer desk with drawers and a monitor on it, with a green chair on wheels

Your computer desk

In an ideal world, everyone should use their computer on a desk where the height can be adjusted to suit the individual sitting at it. WorkSafe Australia suggest that:

  • your desk height should be between 680mm and 720mm from the floor
  • there is ample room for you to stretch your legs comfortably under the desk
  • you never store items under your computer desk.

Your computer chair

While you may find it comfortable sitting in your favourite armchair when using your computer, this is not recommended. Ideally, your computer chair should be an adjustable office chair where you can set the height and tilt of the backrest to suit your body shape. WorkSafe Australia suggest that:

  • you are able to sit back in your chair with the back-support fits comfortably against the hollow of the back
  • when seated, your knees are level with, or lower than your hips
  • your feet sit flat on the floor or the footrest
  • your hips are well supported on the chair.
a graphic of a typical computer chair that can be adjusted to suit your needs
a graphic of a typical computer screen

Your computer screen

The position of your screen is very important as you’ll spend most of your time looking at. The key points to be aware of when setting up your computer screen are:

  • the height of the screen should be set so that the top of the screen is at, or below eye level
  • the screen should be approximately one arms-length away from you
  • the fonts and display size should be adjusted so you can see everything clearly without having to strain your eyes or lean forward.

The importance of taking a break

You may have heard the term screen time being discussed as a concern in the news over the last 5-10 years. This is because it’s a relatively new problem caused by the increased time we spend looking at computers and smart devices.

Spending extended periods of time looking at a screen has been proven to strain the eyes and reduce the rate at which you blink. It is recommended that you take regular breaks so that your eyes have a chance to focus on other things and blink more often to reduce dry eyes.

an icon of a human eye
a laptop screen that is difficult to see because of a glare

Lighting

The lighting in the room you are working can also lead to issues if it's causing glare to be reflected from the screen. To reduce glare, avoid working on your computer under bright lights or in direct sunlight.

You can also manually adjust the brightness of your screen so that you’re able to easily see what’s on screen without having to squint or strain your eyes.

If you wear glasses when using a computer, ask your optometrist at your next visit about special coating for glasses that can reduce the glare from computer screens.

Stretching and movement

It is surprising how time flies when you are using a computer, but sitting down in one position for extended periods of time can cause muscles to tighten and joints to ache. Taking the time to stretch at regular intervals not only leaves you feeling refreshed, it increases blood circulation and helps to ease tight muscles.

a graphic of a young man stretching his arms above his head after working on a computer
a power socket and plug for a computer

Other hazards

Having a computer set up in your home can create a number of other potential hazards. Be sure to keep all cables and power cords out of the way to avoid trips and falls, and of course, like all electrical equipment, liquids and computers do not mix, so be extra careful to avoid spills and place drinks away from areas on the desk where they can inadvertently be knocked over.

Congratulations!

You've completed the Computer safety activity.

In this activity, you found out that sitting correctly in a comfortable chair is essential to provide support for your back, to take breaks when sitting at your computer for long periods and to be observant and remove anything that could cause accidents or discomfort.

Next, if you have registered and are logged into the Be Connected website, you'll now be able to take a short quiz to finish the Using a computer course. If you're not registered, you are now at the end of the course.

a grandfather relaxing with his laptop