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Risk Management Bulletin


By February 1, 2013No Comments

Probably less than you think.

There are a variety of ways to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries among employees who sit behind desktop computer terminals. However, the proliferation of laptops, tablets, and smartphones in the workplace has created a need for ergonomic guidelines specific to these devices.

Laptops. Workers who set up their laptops on desks should apply the ergonomics guidelines for conventional desktop terminals. Those who use laptops away from their desks should sit in a chair that allows for an upright or slightly reclined posture, center the device in front of themselves, and keep their arms and elbows relaxed and close to the body, with elbows bent at a 90o angle.

Tablets. Overuse of tablets (and notebooks) is so widespread that this condition has acquired its own name, “iPad shoulder,” after the ubiquitous Apple® version. To deal with this problem, workers should: 1) use cases that keep the device propped on a table at about a 60o- 70o angle to prevent neck strain; and 2) set a font size large enough for them to read material with their back and neck in a straight vertical line.

Smartphones. Smartphone users are spending less time talking on their device and more time using it as a visual interface. “The posture we assume while texting and e-mailing from mobile devices — using our thumbs to type, crunched over a tiny keyboard — is unnatural and presents problems when we do it constantly without giving our body enough breaks,” says Kermit Davis, professor of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Davis recommends that smartphone users:

  • Draft shorter messages.
  • Use word recognition tools to reduce keystrokes.
  • Keep the wrist relatively straight.
  • Keep moving and change posture every few minutes (the same principle applies to using desktop computers, laptops and tablets.)

Our risk management professionals would be happy to work with you in developing ergonomic guidelines for employees who use their mobile electronic devices for work-related purposes. Just give us a call.