Every good reason to work — pride, passion, camaraderie, money, personal growth — also is a great reason to keep yourself healthy and safe on the job.
Here are six tried-and-true ways to reduce your risk of common workplace injuries and illnesses:
1. Fight colds and the flu.
To help stop the spread of germs at work:
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• Sneeze and cough into a tissue, then throw the tissue away.
• Wash your hands often, or use gel or disposable wipes that sanitize the hands.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
• Get an annual flu shot. It protects against three of the main strains of influenza.
If you do get sick, do your colleagues a favor: Stay home to avoid spreading germs to others.
2. Learn to lift correctly.
To help avoid hurting your back:
• Kneel down on one knee as near as possible to the object you’re lifting. Plant the other foot flat on the floor.
• Use both hands to lift the object, and lift with your legs — not your back — as you stand up.
• Always keep the object close to your body, and don’t bend at the waist.
3. Sit properly at your desk.
To help reduce strain on your back, neck and shoulders:
• Place your computer monitor directly in front of you, with the top tilted back 10 to 20 degrees. The top of the viewing screen should be at eye level when you’re seated.
• Position the computer’s keyboard and mouse at the same height. They should be next to each other and close to your body.
• Adjust your chair’s backrest so that it supports the natural curve of the lower back.
• Rest your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your knees at about hip level.
4. Protect your wrists.
To help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome:
• Stretch your wrists. With arm outstretched, use one hand to pull the other hand back; hold for 20 seconds, then pull the hand downward and hold for 20 seconds. Relax. Repeat three times for each hand.
• Don’t rest your wrists on hard surfaces for long periods of time.
• Switch hands during work tasks.
• Adjust the height of your chair so that your forearms are level with your computer keyboard.
5. Protect your vision from computer-related problems.
To help reduce dry eyes, eyestrain, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and blurred vision:
• Reduce the glare on your computer screen. Close window blinds, shield the computer from overhead lights and use low-wattage bulbs in desk lamps. Blink frequently and adjust the humidity if possible in your work area.
• Position the screen 15 to 20 degrees below eye level and 20 to 28 inches from your eyes.
• Correct vision problems. Prescription eyewear designed for computer use and eye-coordination exercises may help.
6. Protect your hearing.
Workplace machinery — such as sanders, saws and routers — can produce noise above the 85-decibel level that may lead to gradual hearing loss.
The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable. The best way to shield your ears is to always wear hearing protectors around loud noises. There are hundreds of types of earplugs and earmuffs that can do the job. Finding one that’s comfortable and convenient is a matter of trial and error.
If you think you may have physical conditions related to your job, talk with your doctor about treatments and ways to make improvements.