Avoiding Health Risks for Sedentary Workers

With the growth of the knowledge worker and increasing demands for efficiency, many workplaces now use technology to deliver productivity savings. This can affect movement for many employees because so many jobs involve computers, email and, of course, the telephone. The need to get up to speak with someone or deliver a document has been removed, but while this is good for efficiency and productivity, prolonged sitting can pose serious health and safety risks to employees.

Alarmingly, the average office worker will spend about 80,000 hours seated during their working life and face increased risk of injury and illness. In March 2016, Safe Work Australia commissioned Curtin University to perform a literature review of the risks of sedentary work. The results showed that prolonged periods of sitting is associated with an increased risk of musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, some cancers and premature mortality. Workers who exercise vigorously every day outside of work were also found to be at risk. Other health risks include:

  • higher fat and sugar levels in blood
  • increased risk of  metabolic syndrome
  • weight gain
  • decreased fitness
  • digestive problems
  • back and neck problems
  • spinal problems.

Who is at risk?

High-risk groups include office workers, drivers, heavy equipment operators and garbage collectors. Employers have a duty of care and need to remind their employees to take regular breaks that involve moving around. Movement is important, but other things to consider include ergonomic chairs, workstation design and training.

Awareness is an invaluable tool. Start today by reminding your sedentary employees about the importance of good workstation ergonomics. Download our free workstation ergonomics poster by clicking here.


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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au