An excerpt from Accessories for our Future, by Mark Lewis – Interior Designers’ Handbook, 1993
The office industry in Europe has found this, in addition to their allies in legislation, which forces businesses to revise their own integrity. This is so because awareness has grown of the sicknesses such as repetitive strain syndrome and building sickness syndrome.
They have developed in our consciousness like asbestosis and silicosis did when they became an unacceptable cause of death for many British workers. Health is now an important consideration for the controllers of our commerce and industry and so has become such for our office environments.
Every facility which will ease the stresses and strains that our contemporary worker endures is under review. The fact that the majority of workers now serve their employer in a high-tech mode insists that these facilities be incorporated into the office environment.
Once people chocked a few hundred feet underground in coal mines or dismembered themselves in the mechanisms of a cotton loom. Now our modern worker – those who sit mainly motionless for most of their working day suffer equally uncomfortable symptoms. They sit cramped and tense, consumed with the minute repetitive actions and of fingers and wrist. They now develop their own irreparable injuries. These result from years of using word processors, or computer keyboards.
VDU operators have long been ignorant of the effect their bad posture has on them. Hours after hours ,they would be unaware that the seemingly insignificant tapping of the wrist against the keyboard edge deteriorates their wrist nerves and tendons; that having their head forward to looking down would cause a strain in their back that eats into a restful night’s sleep. This in turn, inconspicuously undermines their fitness and resistance from virus infections spawned by ailing colleagues.
Unfortunately, the injuries and strains are now showing themselves in operatives who began using the new technology when it was first introduced. Women mainly, who have spent over six or seven years bashing the keyboards of a terminal, day in and day out, will suddenly wake up one morning with paralysed hands. Unable to work, she is then dismissed and can only seek compensation from the employer. Some claims have been successful.
As a result, accessories in the office have now become important to the office worker and the office industry generally. As it is the accessories that can offer a solution to the problems of repetitive strain injury, they will support the overall, and often subtle, changes in our office environments and procedures that are crucial to relax during the working day.
An estimated 750,000 workers took 13 million days off work in 1989-1990 because of what they regarded as work related illness. In addition, 730,000 in work were affected but took no time off, and a further 820,000 retired and unemployed people reported that they were affected by the longer term consequences of work related illness. These statistics were published by the Government Health and Safety Executive.
Ergonomics have become crucial to the enhancement of the comfort and performance of any office worker. Ergonomics (the new buzz word?) have helped designers to identify the physical relationships between human beings, the environment and the tools we may use. Furniture and accessories have now been developed and are available to office workers. They are able to ease strains by improving posture and supporting limbs, and actions otherwise susceptible to the strain or injury.