Make sure you are using your tech kit safely
Few things in life are without their risks and using high-tech equipment is no different. In particular, there’s potential for our PCs, tablets and smartphones to cause illness or injury. To worry about these risks, though, or even to cut back on using our computing equipment and thereby miss out on the benefits they offer, would be a gross overreaction. The fact is that, for most of us, these adverse effects on our health can be avoided by taking sensible precautions. Here we’ll take a look at potential issues and provide guidance on how to prevent mishap.
Our emphasis will be exclusively on physical health and safety issues. In particular, we won’t be thinking of behavioural issues such as decreased attention span, compulsive behaviour, aggression and the reduction of social skills; all of which some researchers have attributed to certain uses of electronic equipment. While we wouldn’t want to suggest these concerns are all unfounded, the evidence isn’t nearly as compelling as it is for physical conditions, and our aim here is to provide a practical guide rather than engaging in speculation.
The good news is that most experts believe using a computer, even for protracted periods of time, won’t harm your eyes permanently. However, an estimated 50 to 90 percent of computer users report adverse side effects including blurred vision, eye irritation, and headaches. Medical practitioners think this is caused by the repetitive actions such as scanning the screen and repeatedly changing our focus from the screen to documents on the desk. While much the same applies to working with books and paper documents, using a screen is worse because of the possibility of glare, flicker, and poor contrast.
Fortunately, most of these issues can be prevented. Cutting down glare is a comparatively easy matter of positioning your display to prevent direct light falling onto it, perhaps most commonly from a nearby window. Because LCD monitors tend to be less reflective than old CRT displays, this is less of a problem than it once was, but if you do have a CRT monitor, consider replacing it to help your eyesight. In addition to reduced glare, it’ll also cut down on flicker, which is another cause of eyestrain. It’s not always possible to position your monitor to avoid glare from artificial lights and these can also contribute to poor contrast. Commonly, lights are too bright for regular use of a computer.
If this is the case, but your PC is in a room that you use for other purposes, too, it’s worth installing a dimmer switch so you can turn lights down or, alternatively, use a desk lamp. Also, make sure your screen’s brightness and contrast are adjusted for maximum comfort. Rearranging your desk can help too, and this also applies to preventing upper limb injuries so look at our guidance on that topic later too. From an eyesight perspective, experts say the best position for your monitor is 500 to 700mm from your face and slightly below eye level.
In addition, if you work from paper documents, place them in a document holder next to your screen so that you don’t have to constantly change your focus. Finally, a few behavioural changes are recommended. First of all, the 20-20-20 rule is often advocated. Every 20 minutes you should look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Longer regular breaks, involving getting up from your desk and walking around, are also recommended, and this helps with upper limb disorders, too. Some experts also suggest that you should force yourself to blink on a regular basis as this will help keep your eyes from becoming too dry. And finally, don’t forget to have regular eye tests and make sure you wear any glasses that you are prescribed.
Next page: Upper limb disorders and skin complaints