Despite good occupational health and safety regulations, wherever we work – whether it’s an office, a hospital, a nursing home, a factory, outdoors, driving, or whatever – we are all responsible for our own health and safety at our own workplace.
It’s important to have a good work ethic but not to put someone else’s productivity above your own health or safety.
Keep Moving – Move It or Lose It
Research shows that sitting for hours a day can increase deaths from heart disease, as well as contribute to many other conditions.
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- Change position often – With repetitive movements and sitting in the same spot for too long, some muscles become tight, and others slacken off. If using computers, digging, driving, etc. it’s wise to change position often and do different things. To vary time on the computer eg make phone calls while moving using a cordless phone.
- Get up and stretch – Do the opposite movement and stretch, hold the stretch, then relax. Repeat. If it feels good, its right. Gardeners need to stop, stand, stretch and bend backwards often.
- Tai Chi is excellent – at the desk and anywhere else. Gentle stretching movements and great for balance.
- Stand or walk around at meetings, (esp if have back to back meetings), rather than sitting all day. The boss will get over it. He/she might even join you.
- Move your paper bin away from the desk so you have to stand up and move to use it.
- Walk to colleagues to discuss things rather than an email or phone call.
- Pace the floor to work out problems or think.
- Using the stairs is great exercise. Never pass up an opportunity to walk.
- Force yourself – remind yourself to keep moving.
- Frequent breaks, a minute or two every 20 mins or so is recommended but longer breaks during day are also important.
- Walk or cycle to work if possible and go for a walk at lunchtime and after work. A dog helps – it forces us to walk.
- Pace yourself – Know your own body and listen to it. Know your limits and be sensible.
Modify worksite, chairs, desks, equipment, etc. if necessary
- An eye level monitor for the computer is helpful.
- Choose your chair carefully, using an ergonomic model if possible. Good lumbar upport will prevent backache, even a rolled-up towel is better than nothing. Find a chair that is easy to get out of, swivel chairs can be useful. Some people like to sit on exercise balls (fitballs) at their desk or computer, as a way of keeping mobile and avoiding stiff joints and muscles. On a fitball you have to move a lot to maintain balance, but care is needed to avoid falling off. Don’t overdo it, get used to the fitball gradually and ensure it is the right height.
- Foot rests help.
- Scandinavia now produces desks that adjust so can you sit or stand to work.
- Libraries, reading rooms and info rooms in many places now provide exercise bikes.
- Lunch rooms with standing benches are becoming more popular in workplaces. Some employers provide music so that employees can bop during the lunch hour.
- Pedometers for staff are also being offered in some places, with competitions for the most steps/week.
- Arthritis aids and gadgets help – writing splints, pen grips, back rests and various other aids. Check with your local Arthritis organisation.
Look After Yourself in working place:
- Don’t skip meals or breaks no matter how pressured you feel. Life’s too short to risk wrecking your health for anyone else’s deadline.
- Good nutrition is vital. It’s important not to rush meals, to eat well and to maintain a healthy bodyweight. Snacking on fruits, nuts, dried fruits and pumpkin/sunflower seeds is a better option than biscuits or junk food, At all costs avoid pies, pastries and fizzy drinks. Bringing your own healthy lunch and always keeping a bottle of water by the desk is a sensible option. Go easy on the caffeine.
- Water can be life or death. Dehydration increases joint and back pain, causes mental confusion and fatigue. Walk to the water cooler or sip water bottle at desk often.
- Good posture is important to prevent stiffness and pain, especially shoulders, neck and back. Don’t slump in your chair, try to keep your shoulders back and your back straight.
- If you are not well, don’t come to work. Look after yourself and everyone else in the workplace. No one will thank you for bringing a virus to them.
- If you have a chronic illness – depression, arthritis, asthma, etc take a break when you need it. Often people work on when they ought to be having time off, falling in a heap when they get home. This is a recipe for disaster for relationships, families, social activities and long-term health.
- Sufficient rest/sleep/relaxation is essential for physical and emotional health.
- Reduce stress
- Deal with depression
- Avoid catastrophising and panicking over deadlines. Remember that no one is perfect and no one is irreplaceable and that if you fall off the perch the world will still go on without you.
- Take care with lifting – backs are precious
- Protect eyes from glare and eye strain, especially with computers and bright fluorescent lights, it’s a good idea to look into the distance every ten minutes to relax eye muscles and to blink often. Regular eye checks are recommended and eye protection with goggles is vital if using tools, equipment etc.
- Protect hearing – Avoid noises that are too loud with machinery, construction work, etc.or use proper ear protection. Hearing damage can be permanent.
- Sunlight (Vitamin D) is important to keep bones strong and for general health, but care with UV rays is advised. Indoor workers need to make sure they get enough sunlight. Outdoor workers need to ensure good sun protection, by avoiding the middle of the day in summer and drinking plenty of water. Sunlight is good. Sunburn is bad.
- Maintain a positive attitude – Pessimists may be right but optimists live longer.
- Humour helps at work.
Humour and Laughter In the Workplace
- Reduces pain
- Boosts immune system
- Increases production
- Connects and bonds people, dissolves barriers
- Relaxes, lowers stress, lightens the load
- Boosts energy
- Reduces anger
- Inspires creativity, helps problem solving
- Increases resilience and ability to cope
- Improves communication, improves team building, strengthens social bonds
- Increases conflict management skills
- Laughter is an analgesic, a tranquillizer, a sedative and an anti depressant, with NO side effects. It’s free, easy to access, so far it’s legal, and it’s FUN.
Some Useful external websites:
This material is part of (http://www.suite101.com/content/at-work-with-arthritis—–staying-safe-in-the-workplace-a298482 )
Oct 19, 2010 Heather Donaldson