Six Quick Ergonomic Tips for 911 Dispatchers

Posted by Kathleen Utley on Nov 20, 2013 4:26:00 PM
Kathleen Utley
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Helpful Ergonomic Tips for 911 DispatchersThe job of a 911 dispatcher challenges a person’s mental and emotional abilities. It is also a job that requires a person to remain sitting in a chair during most of their shift. This type of job provides only limited opportunities to stand up and move around. Because of this limitation, proper ergonomics for 911 dispatchers is essential.  Improper ergonomics can lead to both short and long term physical issues.  

You may think improper ergonomics is a thing of the past. However, ergonomics still continues to be an issue in today's workplace.  According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer-related injuries cost American employers an average of $135 million every day in Worker’s Compensation costs alone? According to an article in 911 Magazine, it wasn’t long ago that dispatch centers were designed in such a way that dispatchers faced ongoing repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel.  

Remember that even if your workstation is properly set up, you can still get muscle fatigue from being in the same position for too long.  Be sure to periodically adjust your monitor, keyboard or chair to stay flexible. A good idea would be to alternate throughout the day between sitting and standing at your workstation. Standing is actually the simplest way to reduce sedentary behavior and increase energy. Adding this simple movement is a great way to improve ergonomics and decrease the chances of repetitive motion injuries.

Here are six quick ergonomic tips for 911 dispatchers to help you keep humming along injury free:

Computer Monitors 
Improperly configured monitors can cause a great deal of eyestrain, resulting in headaches and difficulty concentrating. Ensure that your monitors are at a comfortable distance, and adjust the brightness settings so that it’s easy on your eyes. To reduce eye strain, make sure to take breaks from staring at your screen throughout your shift. 

Adjustable Chairs 
A good chair can do wonders, as sitting is much harder on your back than it might feel.  Make sure to keep your lower back supported and adjust your chair so that you can easily reach your keyboard and mouse. If this means raising the chair so that your feet don't quite reach the floor, get a footrest to help keep your feet from dangling.

Maximize Layout 
When setting up your work area, make sure that the space is large enough for you to spread out comfortably and allows for a full range of motion; this can be a special concern for those with especially long limbs. You should also leave plenty of room to arrange items you use most frequently in such a way that there is no strain for you to reach them.

Comm centers are usually dimly lit, which can also cause eyestrain by making your computer monitor brighter than the surroundings. Adjust your bias lighting so you can to reduce glare and create a soft glow behind your workstation. It can be helpful to have a task light for close work.

Work Habits
Although leaving your workstation is often times not an option, be sure to take frequent breaks, get up and walk around, and change positions frequently so that repetitive tasks and static work don't take their tolls.

It can be tempting to multitask and cradle your phone receiver between your neck and shoulder.  However, this should be avoided, as it can create a great deal of strain in your neck muscles. If you have your hands-free headset, use that instead.

Bottom Line  If you want to improve your ergonomics - get off your bottom! Movement throughout the day is essential to a healthy, injury free body. Remember, ergonomics means fitting a job to a person, which can help lessen muscle fatigue, increase productivity and reduce the number and severity of work-related injuries. Use these six quick ergonomic tips as small steps to help you stay healthy!

Ergonomic Design Criteria for 911 Dispatch


Topics: Ergonomics, QUICK TIPS, Command Center Console Furniture, Dispatch Consoles