How Pregnant Workers Can Create a Safe Workspace June 19 2017
As a woman’s pregnancy progresses, her ergonomic needs at work change from her normal routine. A pregnant woman’s body continues to change shape over time, so adjustments to her workspace should be made over the course of her pregnancy. There is more to consider than just a protruding stomach. Many physiological changes occur to a woman’s body during pregnancy, many of which make repetitive stress injuries or poor posture more common. Be sure to address the following when reassessing the workspace of someone who is pregnant:
Don’t Even Lift? Good.
A growing belly will increase reaching distance, putting more strain on the lower back, shoulders, and arms when lifting or maneuvering. In fact, all lifting should be minimized or restricted to a maximum of 10 pounds. Never lift items directly from the floor either, as this compromises the integrity of the spine. Some work surfaces that allow adjustable height can assist in minimizing reaching distance. An ergonomic desk that can change its dimensions based on the user can be raised to accommodate a growing abdomen.
Joints and Ligaments Need to be Considered
Hormonal changes decrease elasticity in the ligaments and joints in the spine will grow less stable as they shift and separate. Not only will the back be less capable of supporting weight because of this, but all ranges of motion will be more limited. Increased fluid in the joints will increase the amount of stress placed on all joints and nerves collectively, especially those in the median nerve of the wrist. This makes it easier for pregnant women to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. The position and height of the keyboard should be realigned according to these limitations and a document holder placed next to the monitor can help reduce turning of the head and neck, protecting against the strain of those muscles and ligaments. Using a wrist rest can also help.
What’s Good for Her is Good for Everybody
While it may seem like a challenge to accommodate someone with a continually growing body, the practices in place to help her sensitive condition would help anyone create a more ergonomically safe workspace. These modifications are relatively easy to make to any desk and will allow the office to fit the physiology of any worker, no matter their body size. The implementation of ergonomic equipment will benefit the whole workplace, protecting the health of safety of a diversity of employees.