Give Me A Break

By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant

THE need for Prime Minister Allen Chastanet to defend his recent decision to take some 21 days of vacation leave is curious. Having returned to office on the July 31, the Prime Minister defended his decision by indicating all jobs have some vacation leave and that he had been weakened by the exertions of running the country.

Still, no one can fault the opposition party for scoring points by questioning the timing of his leave, given the state of the economy, news of recently-dismissed RSL workers, a Senate resignation and other issues affecting us.

Assuming that the time was not right for the Prime Minister to proceed on leave, we potentially trap him and ourselves into such thinking because a Prime Minister may feel unwilling to take some well-needed leave since there may always be lingering problems to be resolved.

One aspect of this dangerous trap would be the suggestion that only the Prime Minister could handle certain difficult yet delegatable duties, making him somehow irreplaceable and indispensable. Also, we unfairly diminish and undermine the collective capacity of our other government ministers, including those who have previously held office.

Furthermore, in the wake of the intensive (expensive?) Chartered Director Programme training undertaken by our ministers in January — focussing on the principles of good governance, risk management, and accountability — shouldn’t we expect more? Maybe the argument should question whether such training was adequate for someone to hold the fort in the PM’s absence! Perhaps we should welcome the orderly process and timing of any worker proceeding on leave, since a weak and tired person may be distracted and even make mistakes that would rightfully attract criticism.

In the context of ICT, workers are usually encouraged to take frequent health breaks, sometimes as often as every twenty minutes if they remain seated at their desks performing intensive keyboard activity. If not careful, the repetitive stress can take a toll on one’s health and we should be strict about avoiding the health and safety issues associated with using ICT equipment. Fortunately, you can avoid the eye strain, wrist strain, back problems and variety of repetitive stress-related issues by ensuring correct posture, lighting and ergonomics of your work area, including:
* Undertaking regular risk assessments to include inspections of all equipment;
* Correctly positioning the display equipment and any lighting to avoid glare;
* Empowering other workers to be active participants in their health and safety; and
* Using software to monitor and lockdown the computer if regular breaks are not taken.

As someone who once employed dictation software to overcome painful cramps and wrist pains while working twenty-hour days to complete his doctoral dissertation, I would not recommend overlooking the health and safety implications of ICT-related work. Let’s all take breaks when necessary to avoid causing needless harm, whether a powerful Prime Minister or lowly computer operator.

To share your views, contact the author at: www.datashore.net or via The VOICE.

About the Author
Dr. Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant based in Saint Lucia. His expertise includes systems analysis, design, and data management.

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