Authors Urge Usage of Home Ergonomics

Article excerpt

A home office can be a haven from the noise and stress of conventional workplaces. But even a rudimentary office _ a laptop computer on the dining-room table _ should be set up with a knowledge of ergonomics, the science of designing and arranging tools to fit the user's physical and psychological reyuirements.

"The home is a neglected area of ergonomics," said Dr. Emil Pascarelli, professor of clinical medicine at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center's East Side Office in Manhattan and the author, with Deborah Quilter, of "Repetitive Strain Injury: A Computer User's Guide" (John Wiley Sons, 1994, $14.95).

"People rightfully insist on an ergonomically correct office, then go home and play Nintendo or work on the computer in an unsatisfactory setting."

An ergonomically incorrect office area can result in severe, often crippling injuries, from back ailments and eye strain to repetitive strain injury, or RSI, which harms muscles, tendons and nerves in the neck, forearm, hand and shoulders.

RSI, which stems from repeated, forceful or awkward hand movements, makes it difficult to do the most mundane tasks, like opening doors.

In the 14 years since personal computers started changing the way people do everything from writing letters to balancing checkbooks, the incidence of RSI has grown drastically.

In 1987, 10 repetitive motion ailments were reported for every 10,000 full-time workers, according to statistics from the U.S. Labor Department. In 1993, there were 38 cases for every 10,000 workers.

Experts say that many injuries occur in home offices. "I see a lot of professors who get injured when they take off six months to stay home and write a book," said Philip L. …