COMPUTER SAFETY AND ERGONOMICS

Meaning and importance of computer safety and ergonomics

Ergonomics is the science of adapting the job and/or the equipment and the human to each other for optimal safety and productivity. In basic language, ergonomics is the study of fitting the job to the worker rather than the worker to the job.

Computer ergonomics therefore means the designing machines, tools, and work environments to best accommodate human performance and behaviour. It aims to improve the practicality, efficiency, and safety of a person working with computer devices.

The use of computers has greatly increased over the last few decades. People now use computers and keyboards as a daily way of communicating, working, and even for entertainment. A condition known as Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) has now been recognized as a result of the repetitive motion of typing and sitting in a fixed position (i.e. at a desk for eight hours). This can cause significant injury and pain to the arms, elbows, fingers, and wrists. This condition is extremely painful and can affect everyone from sedentary people to those who are active and physically fit.

Preventing RSI

  • Taking regular breaks from working at your computer – a few minutes at least once an hour
  • Alternating work tasks
  • Regular stretching to relax your body
  • Use equipment such as footrests, wrist rests and document holders if need be
  • Keeping your mouse and keyboard at the same level
  • Avoid gripping your mouse too tightly. You should hold the mouse lightly and click gently
  • Familiarize yourself with keyboard shortcuts for applications you regularly use (to avoid overusing the mouse)
  • Place your document at about the same height as the computer screen and make sure it’s close enough to the screen so you don’t have to look back and forth
  • Adjust you chair so the bottom of your feet reach and rest comfortable on the floor and the back of your knees are slightly higher than the chairs’s seat.
  • Adjust your screen to your height. The screen’s top viewing line should be no higher than your eyes and 18 – 24 inches from our face.
  • Position your keyboard properly. It should be placed on a lower-than-normal work surface in order to keep the arms in a downward position and not interfere with the blood flow to the hands and fingers. Forearms should be parallel to the floor and wrist in line with the forearm.
  • Organize your workstation so everything you need is within comfortable reach

Eyestrain

Another safety concerns resulting from use of computers is eyestrain.

Most computer-related eyestrain is caused by improper lighting. While you may not be able to do much about the overhead lighting, you can take these steps to minimize eyestrain:

  • Exercising the eyes by periodically focusing on objects at varying distances
  • Blinking regularly
  • Keeping the air around you moist – for example using plants, open pans of water or a humidifier (spider plants are said to be particularly good for this and removing chemical vapours from the air)
  • Adjusting the screen height / seating so that when sitting comfortably your eyes are in line with the top of the monitor screen
  • Adjusting the brightness control on your monitor for comfort
  • Adjusting the contrast on your monitor to make the characters distinct from the background
  • Adjusting the refresh rate of your monitor to stop it flickering
  • Positioning monitors to avoid glare (e.g. not directly in front of windows)
  • Keeping your monitor clean
  • Keeping the screen and document holder (if you use one) at the same distance from your eyes
  • Servicing, repairing or replacing monitors that flicker or have inadequate clarity
  • Regular eye testing

It is also important to have your workstation set up correctly or use ergonomically designed gadgets.

Monitors should:

  • Rotate, tilt and elevate – if not use an adjustable stand, books or blocks to adjust the height
  • Be positioned so the top line of the monitor is no higher than your eyes or no lower than 20° below the horizon of your eyes or field of vision
  • Be at the same level and beside the document holder if you use one
  • Be between 18 to 24 inches away from your face

Ergonomic Keyboards should:

  • Be detachable and adjustable (with legs to adjust angle)
  • Allow your forearms to be parallel to the floor without raising your elbows
  • Allow your wrists to be in line with your forearms so your wrists does not need to be flexed up or down
  • Include enough space to rest your wrists or should include a padded detachable wrist rest (or you can use a separate gel wrist rest which should be at least 50 mm deep)
  • Be placed directly in front of the monitor and at the same height as the mouse, track ball or touch pad

Ergonomic mouse should have:

  • The shape and size of the mouse should fit comfortably in the hand.
  • You should have the ability to hold the mouse in a neutral position, i.e., your hand should not be bent at any awkward position.
  • The mouse should be placed in such a way so that it can be used with your upper arm comfortably relaxed, and as near your body as possible, and without you having to reach towards the side or forwards for it.

Ergonomic Chairs should:

  • Support the back – and have a vertically adjustable independent back rest that returns to its original position and has tilt adjustment to support the lower back
  • Allow chair height to be adjusted from a sitting position
  • Be adjusted so the back crease of the knee is slightly higher than the pan of the chair (use a suitable footrest where necessary)
  • Be supported by a five prong caster base
  • Have removable and adjustable armrests
  • Have a contoured seat with breathable fabric and rounded edges to distribute the weight and should be adjustable to allow the seat pan to tilt forward or back

Ergonomic Tables and desks should:

  • Provide sufficient leg room and preferably be height adjustable
  • Have enough room to support the computer equipment and space for documents
  • Be at least 900 mm deep
  • Have rounded corners and edges

Computer Hardware Safety (check)

A phenomenal amount of information now resides on computers. Individual computers as well as computers on networks contain billions of pages of text, graphics, and other sources of information. Without safeguards, this information is vulnerable to misuse or theft.

Hardware security protects the machine and peripheral hardware from theft and from electronic intrusion and damage. The following are some of the measures to ensure hardware security:

  1. Physical Security
  • Physical on-site security can be provided by confining mission-critical computers like servers to a locked room, and restricting access to only those who are authorized.
  • Securing the physical perimeters of the room where the computer systems is kept is also necessary.
  • Ensuring only a single entrance is used to the computer room
  • Use of a strong lock on the door
  • Control access to the computer room using measures like:
    • access monitoring through badge-based entry
    • security guard at the building entrance,
    • Restriction of
    • unscheduled visits,
    • Surveillance cameras around the building and at each entrance.
    • Access monitoring through biometric devices like fingerprint readers, voice recognition systems and iris readers
  1. Fire Protection
  • Smoke detectors are usually installed to provide early warning of a developing fire by detecting particles generated by smoldering components prior to the development of flame. This allows investigation, interruption of power, and manual fire suppression using hand held fire extinguishers before the fire grows to a large size.
  • Hand-held fire extinguishers should be within close reach of the computers
  • Automatic fire sprinkler system is often provided to control a full scale fire if it develops.
  • Various materials within computer rooms can enhance the magnitude of fires. Create a non-combustible environment to decrease risk of fire and help ensure that if a fire does begin it will not spread quickly. If furnishings are necessary in the computer area, guarantee they are made of non-combustible materials. Also, try to keep papers outside of the computer room as they would quickly amplify any fire that begins within the space.
  • Perform regular testing on the safety equipment. For example, check the gauges of the fire extinguishers to see whether they need to be recharged. Re-train staff often on how to properly use the extinguishers and bring in professionals to ensure the devices are still in working order.
  • Ensure that there is a plan in place for staff to follow if there is a fire. Perform fire drills to keep the plan fresh in the minds of employees.

Computer software safety

  1. Use only genuine software
  2. Install antivirus software on your computer
  3. Keep your antivirus software updated.
  4. If you have an antivirus software you should have a scan at least once a day on your computer so that the software can remove viruses
  5. Don’t open any e-mails if you don’t know who sent them.
  6. Never open email attachments unless you know with certainty that the attachment is something you expected and want to receive.
  7. Install or turn on the firewall to protect your computer against automatic network virus attacks.

Data Safety/Security

Data security is the practice of keeping data protected from corruption and unauthorized access. The focus behind data security is to ensure privacy while protecting personal or corporate data.

Data could be anything of interest that can be read or otherwise interpreted in human form.

The unauthorized access of this data could lead to numerous problems for both organizations and individual. Having your bank account details stolen is just as damaging as the system administrator who has had client information stolen from the database.

There has been a huge emphasis on data security as of late, largely because of the internet. There are a number of options for ensuring safety of your data and they include:

Encryption

Encryption has become a critical security feature for thriving networks and active home users alike. This security mechanism uses mathematical schemes and algorithms to scramble data into unreadable text. It can only by decoded or decrypted by the party that possesses the associated key.

Strong User Authentication

Authentication is another part of data security that we encounter with everyday computer usage. Just think about when you log into your email or blog account. That single sign-on process is a form of authentication that allows you to log into applications, files, folders and even an entire computer system. Once logged in, you have various given privileges until logging out. Some systems will cancel a session if your machine has been idle for a certain amount of time, requiring that you prove authentication once again to re-enter.

Use of Passwords

Sensitive data should always be protected by a password which should be chosen wisely. Unfortunately, many users choose weak passwords that provide little protection against the experienced hacker. A strong password contains more than eight characters which are a combination of letters (both upper case and lower case), symbols or numbers.

Backup Solutions

Data security wouldn’t be complete without a solution to backup your critical information. Though it may appear secure while confined away in a machine, there is always a chance that your data can be compromised. You could suddenly be hit with a malware infection where a virus destroys all of your files or a hacker can get access to your computer and corrupt/ steal data your data. If all else fails, a reliable backup solution will allow you to restore your data instead of starting completely from scratch. It is also important that you also keep a copy of your backup solution off-site in a secure location.

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