The ICT Lounge
 
Section 6.5:
Health and Safety
 
There are a number of safety hazards linked with using computers and ICT devices.

This section looks into some of these potential hazards and what you can do to prevent them.

We will also look at some of the medical conditions and health problems that prolonged use of ICT devices can cause and what you can do to avoid them.

Key Concepts of this section:
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Understand the health problems related to the use of ICT equipment.
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Know some strategies to prevent these health problems.
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Be able to describe safety issues related to using computers and measures for preventing accidents.
Health problems
Key Words:
RSI, Back Strain, Eye Strain, Headaches, Health Problems, Ergonomics
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There are a number of health problems that you can suffer if you use ICT devices incorrectly or for too long. The main ones are:
  • Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
  • Back and Neck Strain
  • Eye Strain and Headaches
Description of these health problems, their causes and how to prevent them
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
RSI causes painful swelling of the wrist and fingers. Sufferers with really bad RSI are unable to use their hands at all.

RSI is caused by doing the same small movements over and over again across a long period of time. For example, clicking a mouse button repeatedly.

Computer users who type and use a mouse all day long are commonly affected.

Causes of RSI
How to prevent RSI
  • Typing on a computer for too long.
  • Using a mouse for long periods.
  • Holding the mouse incorrectly.
  • Working in a cramped workspace.
  • Take breaks to rest your hands.
  • Use an ergonomic keyboard/mouse.
  • Arrange your workspace so you are not cramped.
  • Use a wrist rest.
Preventing RSI
Take breaks away from computer
Use an ergonomic keyboard
Spacious work area
Wrist rest
   
Back and Neck Problems
Back ache and neck ache can cause great pain and really affect the quality of your life.

Both back and neck ache can be caused by sitting incorrectly and using poor quality chairs without back rests. This is called poor posture (see below).
NOTE!
The key to reducing wrist, finger, neck and back pains is ergonomics.

Ergonomics focuses on creating comfortable environments for people. Adjustable chairs, Wrist rests etc are examples of ergonomics.

Causes of back and neck ache
How to prevent back and neck ache
  • Working in a cramped workspace.
  • Not sitting upright in your chair.
  • Incorrect positioning of the computer screen.
  • Take regular breaks to stretch your body.
  • Use adjustable chairs so you can sit in a position suitable for your height.
  • Sit upright against the back rest.
  • Tilt the computer screen so it is set just below your eye level.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor.
Seating Posture (click image to zoom)
The images to the right show you both the incorrect and correct ways to sit at a computer.
   
Eye Strain and Headaches
Staring at a computer screen for too long can strain your eyes and cause headaches.

Eye strain can cause your vision to blur.

Common causes of eye strain are screen flicker and having direct light causing screen glare (click links for video examples).

Causes of eye strain
How to prevent eye strain
  • Staring at a computer screen for a long time.
  • Working in a room with bad lighting.
  • Using a computer screen with glare or flickers.
  • Dirt on the screen.
  • Take regular breaks (every hour or so).
  • Use LCD screens rather than CRT as they have less flicker.
  • Use an anti-glare screen.
  • Ensure that room lighting is good with no direct light causing glare on the screen.
  • Keep the screen clean of dirt.
  • Have eyes tested regularly.
Preventing Eye Strain
Take breaks away from computer
Use an LCD screen rather than old CRT screen
Use an anti-glare screen
Keep the computer screen clean
   
Safety Issues
Key Words:
Safety, Electrocution, Tripping, Heavy Equipment, Fire
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There are a number of safety issues that can arise from using ICT devices.

Some of these safety issues include:
  • Electrocution
  • Tripping over wires
  • Heavy equipment falling on you
  • Fire risks
Description of these safety issues
Electrocution
Most ICT devices require an electrical power source.

Whenever you have electrical power sources you run the risk of the electrocution.

Causes of Electrocution
How to Prevent Electrocution
  • Faulty equipment (bare wires etc).
  • Spilling drinks over electrical equipment.
  • Opening up an electrical device when you don't know what you're doing.
  • Make sure wires are insulated.
  • Keep drinks away from equipment.
  • Report any malfunctioning equipment to a technician.
  • Never open up an electrical device.
Preventing Electrocution
Don't use exposed
electrical wires
Keep drinks away from electrical equipment
Never open up an
electrical device
   
Tripping over wires and cables
ICT devices with wires can make a room a potential hazard.

Trailing wires are easy to trip over if they are not secured or tucked away.
Causes of tripping over wires
How to prevent tripping over wires
  • Long wires spread across a floor.
  • Hide wires in cable ducts.
  • Tuck trailing wires under desks or carpets.
  • Use wireless technology to eliminate the use of wires altogether.
Preventing tripping over wires
Hide wires in
cable ducts
Tuck wires under desks
Use wireless devices
   
Heavy equipment falling on you
Some ICT devices (like computer screens) are fairly heavy and can cause injury if they fall on you.

Equipment should be positioned securely on strong desks and tables well away from the edge.

Causes of equipment falling
How to prevent equipment falling
  • Equipment not positioned securely onto desks.
  • Poor quality and flimsy desks.
  • Make sure that equipment is positioned away from the edge of desks.
  • Use strong desks/tables that can support the weight with ease.
Preventing equipment falling off desks
Keep equipment away
from the edge of desks
Use a strong desk that can take the weight
   
Fires
 
ICT devices require power from a mains outlet.

If too many devices are plugged into a single mains at the same time it is possible to overload the circuit and start an electrical fire.

You need to ensure that your room has many plug sockets so you don't have to overload any single one.
 
Causes of fires
How to prevent fires
  • Too many devices plugged into a single mains outlet.
  • Leaving devices plugged in unattended for long periods.
  • Covering air vents on devices like laptops.
  • Make sure that your room has plenty of mains outlets.
  • Don't plug too many devices into the same outlet.
  • Turn off and unplug devices if you are going to be away for a long time.
  • Have a CO2 fire extinguisher at hand.
  • Leave air vents on devices uncovered.
 
 
Preventing electrical fires
Don't overload mains outlets (plug sockets)
Have a fire extinguisher
in the room
Turn off and unplug devices when not in use
Do not cover up air
vents on devices
Activities!

Click the above task and follow the instructions given on the sheet. Make sure that you complete all questions in full.

 
Click on the image to the left and see how many of the potential hazards you can spot