Move your way to better health

Further to the recent posting on cardiovascular disease research, Dr David Dunstan participated in an online media briefing on 12 January 2010. (Video and audio interviews have begun to appear on line)

It is often difficult to identify control measures for workplace hazards from the raw research data.  Dr Dunstan, this morning elaborated on the possible workplace control measures that employers can design into workplaces in order to reduce the CVD risk from prolonged sedentary work.  Many of these were a reinterpretation of existing workplace realities and layouts rather than creative design, but could be useful suggestions for future workpalces.

It needs to be re-emphasised that Dr Dunstan’s findings are not related to exercise but to movement.  This distinction will become clearer in the list of suggestions below collated from the advice I have provided clients.

  • Don’t have an oversupply of stationery at every desk.  A central stationery cupboard will cause people to leave their desks or workstations.
  • Provide headsets for telephone operators so that they can stand and move about slightly when talking to a client.
  • Do not locate printers near to the workstations so that people must leave their desks to retrieve documents.
  • Instead of meeting in a coffee shop or meeting room, meet your client or colleague with a walk around a nearby park or one’s city block. (I once walked around the Exhibition Gardens in Melbourne with a colleague who had killed a pedestrian in a car accident on his way to work.  Moving and talking was a useful combination)
  • If possible, locate offices within the first three floors of an office tower.  Although most workers will still use the elevators, many will feel that a short flight of stairs is just as convenient and can be used several times in a day.
  • As some recommend for prolonged air travel, I have a thick piece of dowel under my desk so that I can roll my barefeet over it while sitting.
  • If you work at home frequently, as I do, dig out the record turntable and place it on the other side of the room.  Every 15 to 20 minutes you need to turn the record over and you get to hear those old  albums you are still embarrassed about.

Ergonomic office furniture is very useful but is often designed with a large number of assumptions about work tasks.  For example, typists chairs and the “correct” desk posture are based around prolonged keyboard duties and may not suit those employees who frequently use the phone, read long documents or need to stand up.

The ergonomic principles and guidelines are important to know as basic knowledge but a proper OHS assessment would look at the duties and actions of the worker just as much as the workstation layout.

The legacy of Dr Dunstan’s research may simply be that we will look at how long we sit,  in the same way we consider what we do.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

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