Don’t Forget Hand Sanitizer May Be Flammable

Last week, the Mechanical Contractors Association of America put out a reminder that hand sanitizers that contain alcohol are flammable.

Current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control suggests that individuals in clinical settings should be using hand sanitizer (an alcohol based hand rub with greater than 60% ethanol or greater than 70% isopropyl alcohol) due to greater compliance over soap and water.  If hands are visibly soiled or if an alcohol based hand rub are not available, hands should be washed with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

When using an alcohol based hand rub, you need to make sure that your hands are dry and all of the alcohol has evaporated off before touching anything.  The MCAA put out the reminder that hand sanitizers with alcohol are flammable due to an incident where an employee used hand sanitizer per guidelines to sanitize his hands.  However, the alcohol had not evaporated off of his hands when he touched a metal surface.  The remaining alcohol in the hand sanitizer on his hands was ignited by static electricity.  The employee was able to get to a sink and extinguish the flames however he suffered first and second degree burns on his hands.

When using hand sanitizer please be aware of any risks of flames or sparks and make sure that you allow your hands to fully dry before touching anything that can generate a spark or a static discharge.

20-038-Hand-Sanitizer-Hazard

20-038-Hand-Sanitizer-Hazard

Looking For A Longer Term Shelter In Place Work Chair?

When I initially posted about “virtual school” ergonomics in March, it was with the intent that those tips would be a temporary fix. Ordering office equipment and supplies from places like Amazon isn’t any quicker than it was back in March at the early stages of sheltering in place, but for many states it looks like many of us will be working from home for a while longer.

I’ve been seeing posts and hearing that the kitchen chair or bench at the table isn’t really working out any more and that aches and pains are starting to become a little more chronic. This is not a surprise as these chairs aren’t made for sitting in all day long. The good news is this is a problem that can be corrected. Where and how you sit is an important part of reducing aches and pains.

The before and after photo below shows a couple of quick changes with setting up a temporary home workstation.

savannah ipad before and after

While this photo illustrates using an iPad and keyboard, the process is the same when using a laptop.  On the left, the chair is set too low and the feet are not adequately supported.  With some adjustments, the feet are supported and the chair is at a better height for using the keyboard without stressing the wrists, elbows, or shoulders.  With the display slightly higher, there is less flexion of the neck and the back posture is improved.  With a regular kitchen chair, it would be much more difficult to improve sitting posture for using a keyboard without adjusting the desk height.

A good chair for performing desk work should:

  • Allow you to maintain a good neutral posture with the ears over the shoulders and the shoulders over the hips.
  • Allow you to adjust the height to get you to an appropriate height for using the keyboard and mouse.
  • Provide adjustable back rest support to allow the back rest to be upright or slightly reclined.
    • Provide adjustable support for your lumbar spine.
  • Have a seat pan that supports the upper legs and provides a 2 to 4 finger gap between the front edge of the seat pan and your knees.  This helps to make sure that the seat isn’t too short and not supporting your thighs as well as not being too long and reducing blood flow at the knees.
  • Have your knees slightly lower than your hips.
  • Provide adjustable arm rests that can raise to a level that support your arms when typing at the computer.
  • Has a weight capacity that will accommodate anybody that will be using it.  The hydraulic cylinder that allows the chair to raise and lower has a weight capacity (typically between 250-275 pounds) but stronger cylinders are available based on user weight.

The Kroy Mesh Task Chair from Staples is a solid, basic ergonomic chair with a reasonable price for home usage.  It has adjustable arms, lumbar support, and the main hydraulic cylinder can accommodate users up to 275 pounds.   (Note:  I have no affiliation with Staples and do not earn anything from any purchases via the link.)

The image below demonstrates optimal angles for sitting and standing when using the computer. As mentioned above, when sitting, the ears should be over the shoulders and shoulders over the hips. The keyboard should be at a height that allows your elbow to be flexed between 90 and 120 degrees (whether sitting or standing).

basic sitting and standing postures

What about my feet touching the floor?

You shouldn’t let your feet dangle in the air. If your feet don’t touch the floor once you have adjusted your chair for your workspace (correct height for using the computer keyboard and mouse and performing other tasks on your work surface), you need to use a footrest to support your feet. A box or a stack of books work as a good temporary foot rest. Ideally, an adjustable height foot rest, such as the Eureka Ergonomic Tilt Adjustable Footrest, works best as it is easier to adjust to the appropriate height for a range of users.  (Again, I do not receive any compensation for these linked items.)

What if I have to use my kitchen chair?

While not ideal, using your kitchen chair is not the end of the world.  If you can add a thin seatpad to cushion the seat and a lumbar pad or lumbar pillow to support your back, you can make your kitchen chair comfortable for longer stretches.  Make sure that you have a box or footrest to support your feet.

What else should I know about being more comfortable in my chair at home?

Get out of your chair at least once an hour to move around and stretch.  If you didn’t spend the bulk of your work day sitting in your normal work environment, you won’t be used to sitting all day at home.  Walk around the room a little bit.  Do some easy backward bends and bend forward towards your toes.  Remember when you are stretching, you should feel slight discomfort but not pain.

A few additional resources

“Virtual School” Ergonomics – This blog post discusses best improvised setups for using tablets and laptop computers, raising the laptop to a better display height, and adjusting the chair and footrest.  It also covers improving ergonomics if you have to use a couch as a workstation.

Here is a powerpoint presentation on SlideShare that I have put together that explains some ergonomic basics for improving your temporary workstation, including converting a kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying In Work Shape During A Pandemic

The newest extension of federal physical distancing guidelines now extends until the end of April. For many, that means that they may be out of work for six or more weeks before returning to work.  When we return to work after a vacation, it can take a couple of days to get back into “work shape” but most vacations are only a week or two in duration. Six weeks is a lot longer but with a few tips, we can stay healthy and maintain fitness levels to be ready to return to work.

  • Gyms are closed but there are lots of choices that you can make. Walking is a great choice, especially if you job involves walking on a daily basis. There are many great apps that you can download onto a tablet or a smartphone that will help guide you through a home based, body weight work out. If your job involves lifting and carrying, you may have objects in your garage, shed, or yard that you can pickup and carry in the yard to simulate work type tasks. If you don’t have a weight set but want to do slightly more formal lifting, you can build your own sandbags. Sandbags can be used to simulate many gym movements. Find some steps to climb or a walking route with a hill to maintain/build leg strength. YouTube and Amazon Prime both have plenty of exercise videos that you can use for guided workouts.
    • You Are Your Own Gym is a great app, developed by an Air Force Pararescue NCO, for an at home workout that does not require any fancy equipment.  We have recommended this app to several firefighters in the past who didn’t like the gym and they loved it.
    •  A couple of simpler one exercise apps are 100 pushups200 situps, and 200 squats.  They work to build up the amount of repetitions you can do of each exercise.  A pre-test serves as a baseline to guide workouts.  My advice is to deduct a couple of reps from your pre-test when giving the app the information to build the workouts.
  • Maintain good sleep hygiene. A lack of sleep can compromise your immune system. Set a regular bed time and wake time.  There is a great TED Talk on sleep  by Matthew Walker as well as a great podcast interview series between him and Peter Attia, MD.   Freakonomics did a great podcast on the economics of sleep.
  • Eat healthy. This is admittedly tricky with limited selection at the food stores as well as potential per customer limits on certain products. Try to limit the amount of processed foods for main meals and limit the unhealthy snacking choices during the down time between meals. If you can, try to make sure that you pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables with each food run at the store.
  • Stay hydrated. It’s easy when you are sitting at home to either not drink enough or to drink the wrong things. But make sure that you are getting enough water and limit the soft drinks.
  • Don’t Overdo the Exercise. If you regularly train, either strength or cardio, this is not the time to be working towards a PB in a strength exercise or a PR in an event. Don’t go out and try to win KOM honors on Strava for your daily ride. Super intense workouts that leave you beat up for a day or two tend to weaken the immune system a little.   This is a time for people who regularly exercise/train to work on base building and work on correcting any weaknesses that they may have.

me sandbagRight now, I’ve been walking my talk while I’ve been working from home. We have been trying to be good about what we are eating in our house and have tried to stay to the healthier food in our every 7-10 day food runs. This helps limit the in between meal snacking. I’ve been doing some sort of exercise every day, getting the kids out for long walks or bike rides. Some of the workouts are mine alone such as kettlebell workouts, rides on my bike on the trainer, and I am starting to work my way through a deck of Bruteforce Sandbag workout cards that I had received as a stocking stuffer from my wife. Stay safe, be smart, and wash your hands.

If you have any questions about what type of exercises are appropriate to stay in work shape for a particular type of job, drop me an e-mail at quin@njergonomics.com.