Health and Safety
Healthy by design – Good for business
As someone who owns a business or is responsible for Health and Safety in your organisation, you will know that workplaces are now not only required to be safe but also healthy by design. We really appreciate the time and effort that takes.
Healthy by design might include work habits and culture, as well as a wide range of physical working environments such as an optimal office set-up, time spent off-site, or driving various types of vehicles.
Since your staff are one of your biggest assets, we’ve pulled together some ideas and resources to help you take care of them, and ultimately your business.
Sitting is the new smoking
This is a phrase you may have heard recently because like smoking, sitting is shortening people’s lives. Below are some sites that might be useful to help educate/demonstrate this to your clients.
- infographics created to show the ill effects of prolonged sitting for a number of different organisations
- And here from the Australian Heart Foundation, they show how sitting all ‘adds up’:
- An we also like the YouTube Video Why sitting is bad for you – Murat Dalkilinç
Humans are made to move
Humans are made to move, so the lack of mobility that comes from sitting affects people’s general health.
Doc Mike Evans has a well known You tube video, ’23 ½ hours’ that shows how this works:
Sitting produces back pain
It is well known, that the continuous forces endured by someone’s back while sitting (when the back muscles take a break), are a predisposing factor for back pain.
One solution is the ‘standing desk’
If someone thinks about a standing desk as an ‘activity’ desk, it encourages them to keep moving and alter their posture. Here is a great example that allows someone to stand, sit, kneel and squat.
While someone can still stand in poor posture, motion is their friend.
Or for yet more activity the treadmill desk has appeared. For the more space and price conscious, under the desk elliptical/pedal trainers are also an option, here is a review of three.
Good posture helps when sitting
If you google ‘sit properly + posture’, hundreds of images will show you how to sit correctly. Some organisations have an Occupational Health Officer or team of consultants responsible for setting up workstations to minimise the damage while staff work at a desk. You can also find assessment tools online.
Here are some guides to setting up a workstation:
Good posture good for life
Good posture is the foundation for every movement we make. It affects every system in our body, and determines how well we cope with life and how well we age. This TED talk explains more.
Time spent driving – a health and safety challenge
There are many challenges when someone spends time driving as part of their job:
- They cannot get up frequently.
- They often have poor support and adjustment from their seat.
- They are subjected to whole body vibration (WBV) which increases the loading of the spine.
- They are subjected to a difficult ergonomic environment. For example: most saloon car seats are about 300mm from the floor.
- They cannot continuously alter their sitting position.
A vehicle is a workplace
A guiding principle of The Work Health and Safety Act 2011, is that workers and others need to be given the highest level of protection from workplace health and safety risks, as is reasonable. And that includes time spent by staff in vehicles for work:
Meaning of workplace
(1) A workplace is a place where work is carried out for a business or undertaking and includes any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work.
(2) In this section, place includes:
(a)a vehicle, vessel, aircraft or other mobile structure; and…..
see: The Work Health and Safety Act 2011, (Part 1, Division 3, subdivision 2, section 8)
Time spent travelling can be almost equivalent to a whole day at work per week
The majority of Australian commuters use a car to commute and the average car commuter spends more than seven hours in their car in a typical week – or nearly 400 hours a year.
Your safe driving policy
We know that fatigue and discomfort are interchangeable. If someone is fatigued, they are likely to feel more pain and, if they are in pain they are likely to feel more fatigue.
Safe Work Australia covers ‘Causes and Impacts of Fatigue and Managing Fatigue’ here: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/fatigue#overview
Safe Work Australia also states that one of the risks for road transport workers is Poor Vehicle Design –
Transport drivers’ workplace is their vehicle, and so the design of the seat and vehicle controls as well as the duration and frequency they drive will affect their risk of musculoskeletal discomfort. Poor vehicle design and driving over rough roads can increase exposure to vibration, which increases risks for disorders to the musculoskeletal system and organs.
See: Risks for road transport workers: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/transport
The two key principles of the Australian Work Health and Safety
Strategy 2012 – 2022 are – all workers, regardless of their occupation or how they are engaged, have the right to a healthy and safe working environment; and secondly well-designed, healthy and safe work will allow workers in Australia to have more productive working lives.
Driver health and safety programs pay off
Case study: Driver training pays off for transport company
When Lower Hutt-based transport firm LG Anderson introduced driver safety training in 2000, it met a less-than-enthusiastic response.
They stressed their main motivation was the driver’s welfare.
Also, any faults or hazards the drivers point out must be fixed promptly.
A manager at LG Anderson, Craig, has also noticed that seven years or so ago, 80% of the new ACC claims would be back injuries, but in the past four years there have only been a couple. While some of this is due to modern technologies, a good portion of the credit goes to the drivers being educated in health and safety.
Building a positive safety culture has been the focus of health and safety at Anderson’s. “It’s not about a paper trail but about having staff on board withthe vision,” said Craig.
Pain and its effects on the brain
Chronic pain changes the way the brain operates. It “…significantly worse performances in….memory, attention, visuomotor co-ordination…”
Numerous studies have shown a relationship between chronic pain and cognitive function.
Melkumova (2010) looked specifically at spinal pain with similar results.
Complaints of difficulty with mental concentration were present in 17.3% of patients and problems with remembering information in 20.2%. They showed mild neurodynamic impairments (the ability of the nervous system to communicate between different parts of itself), as compared with healthy subjects. They had significantly worse performances in tests assessing memory (delayed reproduction in the 12-word test), attention, visuomotor co-ordination and mental flexibility. (Ref 1).
Proactively identifying hazards is good for everyone.
The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy’s 2012 – 2022 “Vision is for healthy, safe and productive working lives for all Australians….. We can only achieve the vision and the outcomes if the systematic management of risks…..”
also here, one of the ‘Targets to be achieved by 2022’:
“A reduction in the incidence rate of claims for musculoskeletal disorders resulting in one or more weeks off work of at least 30 per cent.”
The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012 – 2022
The following are excerpts from this publication: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/book/australian-strategy-overview
Safe Work Australia’s Strategy is underpinned by two key principles.
Firstly all workers, regardless of their occupation or how they are engaged, have the right to a healthy and safe working environment; and secondly well-designed, healthy and safe work will allow workers in Australia to have more productive working lives.
“… workers should be given the highest practical level of protection against harm to their health and safety from hazards and risks arising from work.”
Safe Work’s Vision
“While there are costs inherent in providing healthy and safe workplaces the costs of not doing so are even greater. It has been shown that good work health and safety improves long-term business productivity.”
Safe Work’s Outcomes
“We can only achieve the vision and the outcomes if the systematic management of risks happens at the workplace level and concerted effort is made by duty holders and those who support them.”
Safe Work’s Seven action areas – Healthy and Safe by design
“Good design can eliminate or minimise the major physical, biomechanical and psychosocial hazards and risks associated with work. Effective design of the overall system of work will take into account, for example, management practices, work processes, schedules, tasks and workstation design.
Workers’ general health and wellbeing are strongly influenced by their health and safety at work. Well-designed work can improve worker health. Activities under the Australian Strategy build appropriate linkages with healthy worker programs to support improved general worker wellbeing as well as health and safety.”
Safe Work’s Priority Conditions
The priority work-related conditions are:
- musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
- mental health conditions
- cancers (including skin cancer and asbestos-related cancers)
- occupational lung diseases
- contact dermatitis, and
- noise-induced hearing loss.
We the AUS website link here