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Workstation design and modifications

Workbridge is the largest New Zealand-owned employment service for people with a disability or health condition.

Undertake a workstation assessment. Ergonomics specialists and occupational therapists should be able to provide specific advice for individual situations. Plan ahead when making workstation accommodations for new employees as it can take time to source the correct equipment when it is needed.

  • Workstation assessments are particularly important for staff with or at risk of musculoskeletal disorders. Ergonomic seating, workstation and computer equipment can make a significant difference to productivity and reduce the chance of re-injury or the worsening of a condition.
  • Some of the key aspects of a workstation to look at include:
    • lighting – good lighting is common good practice in work areas and will help avoid straining and poor posture
    • draughts – ensure people are not sitting in a draught or very cold environment. This can be particularly important for people with arthritis
    • seating – chairs should support the lower back, be the correct size for the individual and an appropriate height and distance from the desk. Chair arms may be useful for some people (e.g. some people with arthritis) but cause problems for others (e.g. some people with Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS))
    • computer screens – should be at the correct height and directly in front of the individual rather than off to one side, which can cause poor posture
    • computer keyboards – a variety of different ergonomic designs are available to help avoid OOS caused by poor posture or over-stretching when typing.
  • People with mobility impairments which affect their arms may benefit from a range of adaptive computer equipment including voice-activated software, alternatives to the traditional mouse, and motion sensor technology which can allow them to use head movements to move the cursor. A simple adjustment to the sensitivity of the mouse, through the computer’s control panel function, can also enable people with jerky or limited movements to use a standard mouse. Adjustable desks and workstations are available to accommodate a wheelchair.
  • A quiet environment can help concentration for people with dyslexia and other conditions. Wall planners, daily to-do lists, and help with estimating how long tasks should take can all help people with concentration difficulties.
  • Allow people with vision impairments to arrange their workstations in a way which suits them.
  • People with epilepsy may need to take breaks from looking at a computer screen. They may benefit from a glare-reducing screen for the computer and reduced use of fluorescent lighting in the workplace.
  • A rare type of epilepsy, photosensitive epilepsy, is caused by bright or flashing lights. Some technology in the workplace may cause seizures, although in most cases computer screens will not cause a problem. Discuss with the person what their triggers are and make sure they have somewhere with natural light to work.  Epilepsy New Zealand provides guidance on what to do in the case of a person having a seizure