Health at work; sitting, standing, lifting and handling.

No matter what the job, they all have their risks to your health and wellbeing.

There are 7 categories to describe where these risks lie.  These categories are important as they emphasise that discomfort, pain and injury is not just related to sitting or standing or lifting and handling at work – but rather it is a combination of many factors.  Most importantly your risk is also related to work and home lifestyle stresses and choices.
Sitting, Standing, Lifting and Handling is undertaken at work and home.  You may be carrying your equipment around work, using it in awkward positions, sitting at your ergonomically designed desk for long hours on the PC, or at least at your laptop docking station, standing and reaching/bending to do tasks, driving your vehicle long distances, loading/unloading equipment, or  doing anything repetitive in general.  As well as daily lifting and handling associated with home; loading/unloading the dishwasher or washing machine, reaching into cupboards or to hang out washing, gardening, making beds, vacuuming floors, lifting the baby into the baby bath, bending to change nappies, lifting & reaching to put the kids into the car seat, sitting watching TV, indulging in your own hobbies, or even social networking.
You also have other stresses associated with work; the long hours, poor and challenging environment, or difficult relationships with colleagues / boss.  In addition, you have the stresses of your home life; the sick kids / partner, the financial pressures of daily living, the silly arguments with your partner or with the in-laws.  In combination these can increase your risk of discomfort, pain or injury.
So what can you do?
Take each of the categories and identify what you can do to reduce your chance of discomfort, pain or injury.  Remember these are sure to involve home as well as work.

Individual Factors
Can you:

  • improve your diet, hydration, health and fitness
  • get to bed earlier, get a massage or have a spa or hot bath to help relax tired or overworked muscles
  • give up smoking
  • get up often to break up sitting
  • get your eyes checked

Psychosocial Factors
Can you:

  • improve your relationship with your work colleagues, boss, partners or in-laws.
  • remember that discomfort or pain is normal and may not necessarily be as bad as it feels, and to actually go out for a walk or swim may actually help you.

Work Organisation
Can you:

  • talk freely with work to ensure that you have adequate breaks or cover so that you are not too overwhelmed or stressed – talk to your colleagues or bosses to try to find workable solutions – they want you to be fit and able to work after all.
  • If you have had a busy physical day, explain this to your sports coach at training that evening so that you can do something else rather than risk further injury and missing your game in the weekend.  If you have had a heavy ‘sitting’ day you should not spend the evening sitting undertaking your particular hobby or social networking on your wireless device.

Work Layout / Awkward Postures
Can you:

  • think of ways to reduce awkward aspects of your job – you may want to consider a sit-stand desk if you sit all day.  You may have to do specific ‘undo’ stretches or exercises if you find you are always reaching or turning to one side.
  • think about the design of your house, the type of dining / lounge furniture, the set –up and layout of your lounge and TV.  The postures you adopt when relaxing at home.

Task Invariability
Can you:

  • talk to your colleagues / boss to identify areas where you could improve the job so that you can cycle through tasks and postures so that there is more variety and less sustained positions.
  • reduce your TV watching, hobbies, gaming or social networking at home if you have had a particularly very busy sedentary day at work and even better go for a walk, swim or cycle.
  • reduce your DIY in the evenings or weekends when you have had a very busy day / week of lifting and handling at work

Load / Forceful Movements
Can you:

  • reduce the force and therefore the chance of discomfort, pain or injury by using correct lifting and handling techniques, contracting the core muscles, using 2 man lifts as necessary, keeping the load close to the body and avoiding twisting.
  • remember that this applies to home and work

Environmental Issues
Can you:

  • talk to your work regarding temperature, ventilation, lighting
  • ensure that your home is also warm and dry and dust free

Remember discomfort, pain and injury is multi-factorial. If you can adjust, reduce or eliminate any contributory factor then it will lessen your chance of discomfort, pain or injury affecting your life.  If you have discomfort, pain or injury that is not improving you should report it and see your local physiotherapist.

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