Workstation assessment

What do we mean by "workstation"? Why is it necessary for workstations to be "assessed"?

Article 51 of Law 626 defines a computer workstation as the set-up that includes not only the computer but also accessories, furniture and the immediate surroundings. Article 52 of the same law states that employers have an obligation to analyse workstations, in order to identify any possible risks to operators.

Only a trained ergonomic adviser can carry out a proper workstation assessment, making appropriate suggestions as to how a computer operator can render his or her activity less stressful.

Exactly what is involved in assessing a workstation? When the office ergonomist arrives on the scene, her first task is to sit and watch, taking notes on how a user interacts with the working environment. She will immediately notice whether more effort than necessary is being exerted in accomplishing repetitive tasks, whether the chair is the right height with respect to the table, whether the lighting - natural or artificial - is adequate and arriving from the correct angle. She will ask the person concerned how they feel carrying out certain actions, and whether they have any aches and pains that could be due to incorrect posture.

Office employees react extremely positively to being given a workstation assessment: it boosts their morale to think that the company is concerned for their wellbeing.

After the initial period of observation, the ergonomic adviser will probably ask the operator to try making a few simple changes to the equipment or the way in which it is used. Appendix VII of the above-mentioned law, which lays down minimum requirements, establishes that monitor, keyboard and chair must be fully adjustable and that the work surface must be sufficiently spacious to allow flexible working arrangements, but the operator will need assistance in identifying the changes necessary. For example, placing the mousepad the right distance away from the user can help to forestall Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other painful disorders of the wrist and hand; ensuring that the monitor is placed at the correct height and angle can prevent discomfort in the cervical spine. (See Health hazards).

By seeing that staff adopt good working habits, companies can reduce the number of days' sick leave per year and increase productivity.

After the workstation assessment has been completed, the ergonomic adviser will report her findings to management, making any necessary recommendations with regard to the purchase of new equipment.

In Rome, workstation assessment is offered by Susan Yarrow.