Health and Safety Facts and Resources
These facts and resources have been compiled by Osteopath Martin Rooke who has more than 30 years’ experience in advising on health and safety in the work place.
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 including the optimal set-up of offices, 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.
Here are a number of 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’.
And 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.
Dr 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 from ACC:
You can also watch our videos to help with good posture in a vehicle.
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.
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 Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 2015, is that workers and others need to be given the highest level of protection from workplace health and safety risks, as is reasonable. That includes time spent by staff in vehicles for work:
The Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 2015, (section 20, 2a):
Time spent travelling can be almost equivalent to a whole day at work per week
35–64 year olds in New Zealand spend more time travelling (by bus, car, train etc) than any other age group – 7 hours on average per person, per week. They also spend the most time driving – 5 to 5.5 hours on average per person, per week. For more see the NZ Household travel survey
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.
NZTA and ACC have created a joint publication to encourage businesses and staff to adopt a safe driving policy.
When you are fatigued: you are more likely to succumb to discomfort, pain and injury conditions, such as strains and other aches and pains, and are more likely to have a slip, trip or fall (see P19 of the NZTA/ACC safe driving booklet).
Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, employers are responsible for ensuring the workplace is safe. This includes having systems to assess and control the contributors to fatigue, particularly when employees use machines or vehicles at work (see P19 of the NZTA/ACC safe driving booklet).
Driver health and safety programs pay off
Case study: Driver training pays off for transport company
(see P35 of the NZTA/ACC safe driving booklet).
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 with
the 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.
HSWA shifts the focus from monitoring and recording health and safety incidents to proactively identifying and managing risks so everyone is safe and healthy.
An action plan by ACC & Worksafe NZ to reduce harm in workplace.
The following are excerpts from this publication:
A growing base of evidence supports engaging workers in a participatory approach to reduce the risk of sustaining injury. This also delivers other benefits to businesses such as increased productivity, worker engagement, satisfaction and wellbeing. (P51)
Supporting New Zealanders to recognise and value good health and safety practice as part of good business management. (P59)
For many small businesses the loss of a person due to injury for any period of time can affect productivity severely, as expertise is often concentrated in a few people that the business cannot afford to lose. (P60)
The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and the Working Safer Blueprint present a once-in-a generation opportunity to raise awareness of the need for change in workplace health and safety practices in New Zealand, and to assist people to understand and implement more effective risk management practices that will reduce work-related injuries and fatalities and ACC claims. (P63)
We need an attitudinal and behavioural shift from purely ‘tick-box’ or mixed levels of compliance to recognising and valuing good health and safety practice as part of good business management. This change in attitude and behaviour must then translate into changes in practice. (P63)
Workers play an essential role in reducing work-related injuries and ill-health. Workplaces are healthier and safer when workers are engaged and can participate effectively in health and safety matters. (P73)
Workplace health and safety: The mechanisms, systems and parties involved in achieving and maintaining a state of health and safety in the workplace. Workplace health and safety involves recognising and minimising potential harms, including the risk of injuries and illnesses, and having workplace systems in place to review and audit ongoing risks of harm.
Work-related health: The broad view of anything related to work and health. It recognises that work can affect health and health can affect work.
Zero harm: A commitment to reduce the incidence of injury and illness within a workplace to zero, or near zero (P83).
(1) Characteristics of Cognitive Functions in Patients with Chronic Spinal Pain
Neuroscience and Behavioral Physiology, 2011. (Melkumova, Podchufarova, Yakhno).