Monday, 29 September 2008

Top 10 IT Health Risks And How To Combat Them (2/2)

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  1. How is it that sitting on your chair and looking at a monitor can make your back, neck, and shoulder muscles feel like you've spent eight hours painting a ceiling? Your tense posture may be part of the problem. Improving the ergonomics of your work area may help take the stress off your upper body. Try not to transfer the tension in your mind to your muscles and take a break now and then to unclench.

  2. The dry air of a typical office certainly doesn't help your immune systems ward off your coworkers' coughs, but hey, at least you're not sitting in a daycare center. There are hundreds of cold viruses, plus several influenza viruses each year. What can you do to stay healthy and help keep your coworkers healthy, too?
    • Stay home for a change.
    • Clean your keyboard, mouse and desk.
    • Wash your hands.
    • Keep hydrated.
    • No replicable scientific studies have proven that vitamin C, Echinacea, or zinc will prevent or shorten colds, but many people swear by them.

    As far as gastrointestinal illness goes, remember that the most common transmission route is fecal-oral. So, for God's sake, wash your hands after going to the restroom. Also, consider the effective, but possibly neurotic, act of opening the door with a paper towel when you leave.

  3. Watching a backlit screen two feet away for four hours at a time isn’t really natural, is it? So it’s no surprise that people in IT complain about irritated eyes and declining visual acuity. Here are some suggestions that may help:
    • Remember to blink. Yes, blinking is pretty much automatic, but some people really keep their eyes peeled when they’re engaged in work. Their eyes dry out, which is extra hard on people who wear contact lenses. A few drops of artificial tears can make your tired eyes much more comfortable.
    • Change your focus. Look out the window or down the hallway -- anything to get away from your two-foot focus. There are even programs designed to remind you to give your eyes a break.
    • Get an eye exam. Your doctor may have more tips to help you feel more comfortable as you work. And everyone needs to be screened for glaucoma and other eye diseases anyway.

  4. If your job requires you to lift, lower, and/or carry equipment around, you might find yourself battling back pain. Maybe you spend your days installing workstations or inserting/removing computers from racks - and if you're used to the work and know the right way to protect yourself in the process, you might not have any problems at all. But if it's an occasional task, or if you don't follow some basic precautions, you could wind up with a painful injury or chronic back trouble. Despite the fact that best practices for lifting are largely common sense, people often ignore them - and often wish they hadn't. Here are some basic recommendations for protecting your back:
    • Examine an object before you try to pick it up to determine how awkward and heavy it is. Tip it a little to test its weight and make sure you have a comfortable, secure way to grip it.
    • If you think an object might be too heavy for you move, find an alternative: Get someone to help you, unpack or dismantle the object and move it in pieces, use a dolly, etc.
    • Don't extend your arms when you pick up or lower a heavy object. That puts a big strain on your back.
    • Watch your footing -- the last thing you want to do is stumble or trip while carrying something heavy.
    • Lift correctly. Keep your straight back, kneel to pick up the object, and then lift using your leg strength, not your back.

  5. If you work on a lot of systems, you're no stranger to dust. Even a well-maintained machine in a clean, ventilated area is going to pull in plenty of it. It could spell big-time allergy, respiratory, and sinus woes. Among the suggestions from veteran dust-sensitive IT pros: Put on a dust mask before opening a case (or crawling around under a grubby workstation). And if you plan to use compressed air to blow some of the dust out of the case, definitely mask up first. You might also want to consider vacuuming that dust out rather than blowing it around - but you should use an ESD (electrostatic discharge) safe vacuum designed for electronics.

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