Can a vibrating mouse prevent computer-related injuries?

December 21, 2007

A chair that undulates, a mouse that vibrates, a monitor suspended over a desk on a movable arm. These are some of the kinds of newfangled ergonomic products that Alan Hedge, international authority on office ergonomics, studies to see if they can prevent repetitive motion injuries among the estimated 100 million people who now use computers in the United States.

"One-third to one-half of all compensatory injuries are repetitive-motion injuries associated with office-type work," says Hedge, professor of design and environmental analysis in Cornell's College of Human Ecology.

Back injuries also account for one-third of all workplace injuries. A decade ago most of these were associated with heavy lifting. Today they are mostly caused by people sitting for longer periods of time -- often in front of a computer.

The younger onset of computer use makes the current rate of compensatory damage claims the canary in the coal mine. There is typically a 10- to 15-year latency before injuries start to develop, Hedge has found. In the early 1990s he showed that the average age of workers reporting carpal tunnel syndrome was late 30s to early 40s; last year, he found the average age of onset had dropped to the mid-20s and even younger for some people.

"Now kids are using computers at age 2, so by the time they enter the workforce they'll already be primed for injuries," Hedge says. "This is very serious because an injury can become life-changing; carpal tunnel, for example, is not curable. They'll have to manage this chronic condition for the rest of their lives."

To better determine how design concepts can prevent such injuries, Hedge's Cornell Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group studies innovative products. Among his recent projects: "This position is potentially more detrimental because of a potential increase in static muscle activity required to hover the hand," Hedge says, concluding that people should rest their hands on a flat surface when they feel the vibration. "We saw fewer complaints about neck problems and about the workstation because people had more space," says Hedge. He was surprised, however, that users liked the versatility of the movable arm to show others what was on their screen. "This simple design change in screen adjustability has many potential benefits associated with it," Hedge concludes.

"Everything we do can be summed up in the phrase: Good ergonomics is great economics," Hedge says. "More than 90 percent of a company's costs are people costs, so making small investments in improving the workplace by using good ergonomic products pays huge dividends."
-end-
Workstation guides available online

Cornell ergonomist Alan Hedge offers specific guidelines using computers in a wide variety of environments, including schools and laptops on the floor. For workstation guides, including audio and video podcasts, on how to use laptop and desktop computers safely, see CUErgo at http://www.ergo.human.cornell.edu.

This story is abridged from Human Ecology Magazine. Metta Winter is a writer with the Office of Publications and Marketing.

Cornell University

Related Injuries Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 frequently causes neurological injuries
Without directly invading the brain or nerves, the virus responsible for COVID-19 causes potentially damaging neurological injuries in about one in seven infected, a new study shows.

Head and neck injuries make up nearly 28% of all electric scooter accident injuries
A Henry Ford study is sounding the alarm on the rise of electric scooter injuries, and particularly head and neck injuries, since the 2017 introduction of e-scooter rideshare programs in urban centers.

Reasons for football injuries
If professional footballers are out of action due to injuries, this can have serious consequences for the club.

Glass tables can cause life-threatening injuries
Faulty glass in tables can cause life-threatening injuries, according to a Rutgers study, which provides evidence that stricter federal regulations are needed to protect consumers.

Concerns over police head injuries
Head injuries may be worryingly common among police officers, according to a new pilot study led by the University of Exeter.

Firework-related eye injuries
Emergency department data were used to describe the number, type, severity and factors associated with firework-related eye injuries that occurred in the United States from 1999 to 2017.

Injuries from motorized scooters
Motorized scooters are increasingly popular and, in this study, researchers analyzed medical information for 61 adults who visited a single emergency department with scooter-related injuries.

Children's fingertip injuries could signal abuse
Many children who suffer fingertip injuries have been abused, according to a Rutgers study.

Cell phone injuries
Cell phones are mainstays of daily life. This observational study analyzed 20 years of data on people who went to emergency departments with head and neck injuries from cell phone use to estimate the number of injuries, learn what types of injuries there were, and understand how the injuries occurred, such as from distracted driving or walking.

New study looks at motorized scooter injuries
More than half of people who received X-rays or CT scans after electric scooter accidents were found to have injuries, most commonly to the upper extremities, according to a new study.

Read More: Injuries News and Injuries Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.