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 employees as so many jobs involve computers, email and the telephone. Ultimately decreasing the need for one to get up and move, whether it be to speak with someone or deliver a document. Whilst this is good for efficiency and productivity, prolonged sitting can actually pose serious health and safety risks to employees.
The average office worker will spend about 80,000 hours seated during their working life, and as a result, they will be exposed to an increased risk of injury and illness. In March 2016, Safe Work Australia commissioned Curtin University to perform a literature review of sedentary work risks. The results revealed that prolonged periods of sitting are associated with an increased risk of musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, some cancers and premature mortality. Even employees who exercise vigorously every day, outside of work were found to be at risk.
Other health risks include:
- higher fat and sugar levels in the blood
- increased risk of metabolic syndrome
- weight gain
- decreased fitness
- digestive problems
- back and neck problems
- spinal problems.
Who is at high-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.
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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
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