Students spend around 6 to 9 hours sitting in school per day for a period of 11 years or more. Much of their time is spent writing, reading and doing activities in front of computers. Children are at greater risk of suffering negative health effect due to prolonged periods of seating at school. Over 83% of them sit at chair and desk combinations which are not suitable for their body height. More than 60% of students complain of back and neck problems when they leave school. Children are more susceptible to chronic musculoskeletal disorders than adults, since their bodies are still developing.
Most schools today are using desk and chairs that are of regular size and shape because of stackability. Postural and dynamic considerations are not the priority in procurement primarily because of economy and standardization. Studies have shown that a large number of students are sitting in chairs that are either too low or too high for their height. Small student’s feet are dangling in the air which increases back pressure. Tall students are crunching on the knee area, which constricts their leg muscles and enforced to have bad posture. These conventional chairs are causing lack of blood circulation, muscle pain in the neck, shoulder and back and constriction of the digestive organs.
Classroom furniture must comply with essential ergonomic principles to provide proper, comfortable and appropriate work surfaces for children’s different activities. Choosing chairs and desks which are the proper size and height for the student are the factors that affect ergonomics. Every student is built differently, so for classroom chairs to be ergonomic it must be completely adjustable in height, back tilt, seat tilt and armrests. The chairs must provide maximum leg and back support to help alleviate musculoskeletal pressure.
Ergonomic seating will not be complete without the desk. An ergonomic study desk must be adjustable in height and equipped with a sloped working surface. Writing and reading surface will be comfortable for the students if the upper part of the body and head can be held upright. Ergonomic furniture in the classroom like chairs, desks and tables must complement each other to increase postural support and provide for a dynamic learning environment. To achieve maximum results ergonomic classroom furniture should be suited to the height of the child, provide correct postural support, help spinal column to be kept in balance of movement and support the student’s need for movement.
Ergonomic classroom furniture are multipurpose and can serve functions ranging from writing, reading, utilizing computer to conducting hands on activity. It is sufficiently mobile and able to support the concept of active classroom, where furniture is routinely rearranged to fit the learning experience. Ergonomic furniture meets the requirements of functionality, mobility, durability and safety. Ergonomically designed furniture helps safeguard student’s physical wellbeing and offer significant health benefits. It also increases productive learning time because students are comfortable and will be able to concentrate better. If we want to improve the health of the next generations we have to start now in providing the ergonomic classroom furniture to our children.