As the workforce becomes more mobile and technology improves, the use of laptop computers is increasing. They provide great flexibility but they also carry greater risks than a static workstation. Their increased use means that employers are far more dependant on users being sensible in how they use them outside the workplace and also how they manage security.

Using a laptop can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) because they are not easy to use in the correct posture (as you would at a conventional workstation). There is a higher risk of neck and eye problems, because of the angle of the screen; hand and wrist problems because of the angle of the keyboard; and shoulder and back problems due to inappropriate posture during use, or the weight of the laptop when being carried.

As with a normal workstation, you should:

  • Adopt a good posture
    • Raise the screen to the height that you would use for a static workstation
    • Use a separate keyboard and mouse so that wrists are in a neutral position
  • Sit in a chair that provides good back support and align the keyboard to your body (“b” key should be in line with your belly button) – don’t twist to use the laptop.
  • Make sure the screen is adjusted properly to avoid glare and so that you do not have to stretch your neck to see it properly.
  • Take regular breaks from continuous work.
  • Rest your eyes by looking at objects at different distances (e.g. look out of the window).  Try and remember to blink to avoid dry eyes.
  • Make sure that the laptop is supported properly when working so it can’t move or slide as you work.

On the move:

If you have to carry your laptop with you, you should regularly consider:

  • The weight of the laptop – try and buy as low a weight as possible, ideally with removable drives and with a long battery life so you can avoid carrying transformers and cables too.
  • How to transport it – only carry a laptop and bag on one shoulder for short periods. A laptop rucksack or trolley is far better for your back.
  • Security – laptops are desirable objects:
    • Disguise your laptop, if you can, in a non-laptop looking bag.
    • Be extra vigilant if you are walking around in a higher risk area.
    • Don’t leave your laptop in a car.

Other safety issues

  • If you use your laptop connected to the mains, make sure the cables are not trailing across the floor in the path of other people around you.
  • Don’t walk around with the laptop open.
  • Don’t rest your laptop on your lap for any length of time:
    • It is not good ergonomically
    • it can get very hot!
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