What do libraries and aquatic centres have in common?

Risk Matters - Summer 2021

Picture of Dane Casserly

Dane Casserly

Injury Prevention Consultant

Dane's role is to provide manual risk training and ergonomic assessments and advice to LGIS members as part of the Health and Wellbeing Programme. Dane is a member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia (HFSEA), with over ten years' experience working as an injury prevention consultant throughout Australia in a large variety of industrial settings (mining, logistics, offshore supply vessels). In addition he is our lead consultant in the assessment of manual tasks for the purpose of creating job profiles and ultimately job dictionaries.

Installing the wrong furniture in the workplace can be a real pain the neck - or even the back or the shoulders.

Ergonomic furniture can minimise the risk of suffering musculoskeletal disorders and costly workers’ compensations payouts, as it allows workers to sit or stand in the most comfortable position for them. Adjustability is key.

A common complaint we’re seeing from local government employees is that built in furniture isn’t designed with the user in mind (and in many cases does not meet the AS/NZS 4442:2018 ergonomic standards).

Libraries, aquatic centres, and reception desks are often the worst offenders for awkward bench heights, bad fit outs, and unsuitable furniture.

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Five of the most common issues we’re seeing within these areas include:

  1. Built in desks are too high and can’t be adjusted
  2. Desk width is too narrow
  3. Computer workstations have no under-desk space for legs
  4. A lack of keyboard support
  5. Employees are sitting on inadequate stools

The aforementioned problems can cause back, shoulder and neck pain.

What to keep in mind

When picking out furniture, adjustable desks and chairs are ideal as they accommodate a range of users. Consideration should be given to the person performing the task and the requirements of people with additional needs. In some cases, this might involve purchasing or customising special equipment, usually as a result of an ergonomic review.

It is more important to consider the furniture’s compliance with Australian standards over cost.

To prevent these issues becoming expensive injury claims, ergonomics should be incorporated right from the start when considering building fit outs.

Along with the above, other important things to keep in mind are:

  • Desk thickness should be no more than 35mm.
  • Height of book return areas within libraries needs to be lower in many cases as they are inaccessible to children/wheelchair users.

When building workstations a lack of consultation with staff is common.

Consulting employees about how they move through tasks during the workday can solve a myriad of ergonomic problems later.

The LGIS injury prevention team can also conduct site visits to assess workstations, and make adjustments and recommendations to ensure the area and furniture is appropriate.

For more information, please contact the LGIS injury prevention team on 9483 8888.

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When hiring a new staff member it is important to ensure they are able to perform the inherent
requirements of the role and have the required skills, qualifications (applicable to the level of the role) and knowledge to perform the role they are employed to do.

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