Studies report that handheld mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets, are now used by more than 86% of the world’s population, and their availability and use has the potential to fundamentally change the traditional work environment. The use of these devices is linked to many adverse health impacts including the onset of musculoskeletal symptoms.

The current work environment is becoming more digitized as organizations aim to maximize workers’ accessibility, efficiency and productivity through enhancing their work processes and systems. When business processes are digitized, workers are dependent on computing devices to access the digital data and systems. Although this need was traditionally met by desktop computers, the emergence of handheld mobile devices has changed this environment. Handheld mobile devices are capable of executing nearly all of the conventional desktop computer functions, and they allow users to perform personal and work duties in a shorter time and at a lower cost, in addition to offering much greater flexibility of location. As a result, the personal and work use of handheld mobile devices is increasing globally.

The use of handheld mobile devices has been shown, in both field and experimental studies, to be associated with the development of upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders. Key risk factors have been determined to be the frequency and duration of use, and the non-neutral and static body postures adopted during use.

This presentation will explore the research on the use of handheld mobile devices within the workplace and the resultant impact on musculoskeletal disorders. It will describe the current ergonomic advice regarding workplace management and identify the areas where further research is needed.


Margaret has been actively involved in occupational health and safety research and practice for over 25 years. She has been employed in a range of academic positions at both UQ and Queensland University of Technology, and has developed and delivered both undergraduate and postgraduate programs. During this time Margaret has also consulted extensively to a range of organisations from government departments to manufacturing and retail companies. In 2002 she was awarded the Eric Wigglesworth Medal for outstanding contribution to OHS research, an award presented by the Governor-General of Australia.


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