The jury remains out on standing desks but maybe we are asking the wrong questions

The 20th Congress of the International Ergonomics Association in Florence Italy recently concluded.  Australia’s Professor David Caple attended and brought the latest research into the benefits of sit/stand desks to the September meeting of the Central Safety Group in Melbourne.  Caple said that evidence remains confusing on this increasingly popular piece of office furniture and echoed the modern approach to occupational health and safety (OHS) matters – look at what the work involves and how and where people do it.

Caple explained how large companies are moving away from open-plan offices to those designed around “activity-based work or

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Embrace the irrational

In 2008 the brothers Brafman wrote “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior“.  They tell the story of Ori Brafman being told, on his first day in his MBA course in Tel Aviv in the 1980s, that

“People aren”t rational.”

In my 1990s tertiary course into OHS Risk Management, we were still being referred to the 1965 book, “The Rational Manager“.  Occupational health and safety (OHS) seems to still be based on an assumption of rationality in OHS management systems, decision-making and working yet it does not take too much exposure to the reality of work to understand that we must anticipate irrationality.

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Quad bike safety gets messy – disagreements, Supreme Court writs and stars

Over the last couple of weeks in Australia, the arguments over the safety of quad bikes (sometimes called All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)) has become messy. The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is in favour of Operator Protection Devices (OPDs) but the Victorian Farmers’ Federation (VFF) is not. Doctors and farmers are calling for a five-start safety rating for quad bikes. One researcher says such a scheme is ready to go. The manufacturers’ industry representative, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) says no it’s not but here’s a new helmet to wear.

Around all of this is remarkable silence about legal action launched against the Victorian occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator, WorkSafe, by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and BRP over WorkSafe’s interpretation of a legal safety duty.

All the while farmers in some States are continuing to access generous safety rebate schemes. Continue reading “Quad bike safety gets messy – disagreements, Supreme Court writs and stars”

Evidence says don’t rely on manual handling training as it doesn’t work

Everyone knows the safe lifting techniques – keep your back straight, keep the load close to your body and bend your knees – because they have done the proper  training.  Well scrap that training!  According to new guidance from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ):

“The research evidence shows that providing lifting technique training is not effective in minimising the risk of injury from manual tasks.”

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New clues in prolonged sitting risks: tenure and obesity

Too much computerThe evidence base for the workplace risks from prolonged sitting is still only just being collated.  One of the latest research reports, in Preventive Medicine Reports, identifies two more clues to identifying these health hazards – the length of tenure and Body Mass Index (BMI) but the BMI is not what one would expect.

According to the article entitled “Office workers’ objectively assessed total and prolonged sitting time: Individual-level correlates and worksite variations“: Continue reading “New clues in prolonged sitting risks: tenure and obesity”

Evidence to support Stand Up, Sit Less, Move More

Office workers need to exercise more.  This is one of the simplest occupational health and safety (OHS) statements that can be made.  Whether one stands while answering a telephone, walks to a photocopier, have a walking meeting or take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, you will be healthier by moving.  Too often this simple OHS message is confused by sellers of apps, products, furniture and training courses that promise success from a single intervention.  The way to avoid this is to look at the research and some recent Australian research into sedentary work is a useful reference in determining workplace safety interventions.

The research “A Cluster RCT to Reduce Office Worker’s Sitting Time: Impact on Activity Outcomes” has been written by a swag of researchers from around Australia and found that a:

“workplace-delivered multicomponent intervention was successful at reducing workplace and overall daily sitting time in both the short- and long- term.”

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Stress advice that builds on what came before

In occupational health and safety (OHS), as in most things, it is possible to learn more from what is not said than what is said. Recently WorkSafe Victoria released a guidebook for employers on “Preventing and managing work-related stress”. Given the current community focus on stress, health and wellness, discussion of this document’s release has been quite muted. Part of the reason is that, in some ways, the guidebook does not fit with the contemporary health and wellness push.

WorkSafe has been publishing guidance on workplace stress and its subset, workplace bullying, for well over 20 years. It’s Stresswise publication  has been a de facto reference on the hazard and the workplace bullying changes initiated by the ACTU and implemented by WorkSafe Victoria, emerged from. ACTU surveys of its members specifically on workplace stress.

Part of the significance of investigating workplace stress is that the major causes are institutional, that is, the way businesses are managed rather than with the individual’s capacity to cope. It is here that the WorkSafe guidebook conflicts with the common approaches of the wellness advocates.

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