Health and Safety Facts and Resources

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 appreciate that this takes time and effort.

Healthy by design might include work habits and culture and a wide range of physical working environments including: the optimal set-up of offices; off-site risks; and 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.

According to the latest report from the Office of National Statistics (GB), musculoskeletal problems (including back pain, neck pains), account for 22.4% of sickness absenteeism, second only to minor illnesses (coughs and colds) accounting for 24.8% of the total days lost.

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 websites that might be useful as you help educate and demonstrate this to your clients.

A number of infographics have been created to show the ill-effects of prolonged sitting.

The British Heart Foundation has shared its opinion on prolonged sitting.

A BBC article with some good statistics on our level of physical activity as a nation.

The website ‘Start Standing’ features many useful tips and references on how to change to a sit-stand desk.

NHS has offered some advice on ‘Why we should sit less’.

And we like the YouTube Video:‘Why sitting is bad for you – Murat Dalkilinç

Humans are made to move

Our bodies are made to move so the lack of mobility that comes from sitting affects people’s general health.

The well-known YouTube video by Dr Mike Evans called 23 ½ hours shows how important it is for us to keep moving:

Sitting produces back pain

We know that the continuous forces endured by someone’s back while sitting can aggravate back pain, more than physical activity (3).

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.

For some examples and information about standing desk see this article from the Business Insider

For a standing desk to have the right effect though, the person using it needs to keep moving. Standing still at a standing desk is not much better than sitting still at a typical office desk.

There are numerous websites to help people switch to a standing (activity) desk. For example Uncaged Ergonomics.

Get Britain Standing’ is a dynamic campaign to increase awareness and education of the dangers of sedentary working and prolonged sitting time.
‘Our vision is that within 20 years more than 80 per cent of the workforce (four in five staff) will convert between two – four hours of sitting time with time standing daily at their desk.’

And of course if we want to do even more activity when standing, there is always the treadmill desk. Read a product review by Wired.

For people more conscious of space and price, under-the-desk elliptical/pedal trainers are also an option. Read some reviews.

Good posture helps when sitting

If you google ‘good posture + sitting’, many images will show you how to sit correctly. Some organisations have an Occupational Health Officer or a 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.

Health and Safety Executive have produced a guide for users of display screen equipment (DSE).

And a checklist.

Unison, the Public Service Union, have also produced a DSE guide.

This is a good infographic.

For help with driving posture from us watch our driving posture videos.

Good posture for a good life

Good posture is the foundation for every movement we make. It affects every system in our body. It determines how well we cope with life and how well we age.

This TED talk explains more.

Why time spent driving is a Health and Safety issue

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 forces on the spine.
  • They are subjected to a difficult ergonomic environment. For example: most saloon car seats are significantly lower than any other seat or chair found at home or in an office.
  • They cannot continuously alter their sitting position.

A vehicle is a workplace so should be assessed like any other workplace

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA 1974) is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational Health and Safety in Great Britain.

Under General Duties – sections (d) & (e) highlight the requirement that the workplace is safe and without risks to the health of the worker, and that adequate facilities and arrangements are made to ensure their welfare.

Time spent travelling can be equivalent to a whole day at work per week

We are all aware that there are a lot of cars on the road. Although the average number of trips per week has been slowly falling over the past decade in the UK, 78% of the total distance travelled in 2016 was in a car. Some people are still spending some 10 hours per week commuting.

See the latest National Travel Survey by the Department of Transport.

Your Safe Driving Policy and Fatigue

We know that fatigue and discomfort are interchangeable.

It is not clearly understood what the underlying biological reason for this is, but it appears to be multifactorial, involving neurotransmitter release, hormonal levels, protective muscular activity and more.

‘Driving for Work: Managing Fatigue Risks (by the RSSB)’ is a guide that provides a breakdown on driver fatigue and what effects it can have.

It states:
‘Every week around 200 road deaths and serious injuries involve someone using the road for work purposes (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents). Around 40% of sleep-related accidents involve drivers of commercial vehicles (Department for Transport, 2010).’

The document includes ergonomic risk factors on pages:
Pg. 11 – Type of Task – vehicle ergonomics
Pg. 13 – SUMMARY OF DRIVER FATIGUE RISK FACTORS

Driver Health and Safety programs pay off

How BT reduced its accident rate and saved over £10+ million is a well-publicised story.

As Tony Holt, BT’s Travel Safety Subject Matter Expert explains, a key part of this project was risk data collection and management, which all starts from their ‘Starting Point driver risk assessment, monitoring and improvement project’, which boils down to good communication with the drivers, regarding all aspects of their work including comfort levels.

Read the full story about BT.

Pain and its effects on the brain

Chronic pain and impaired cognitive function.

Melkumova (2010) looked specifically at spinal pain and cognitive function (1). This study highlighted difficulty with mental concentration in 17.3% of patients and problems with remembering information in 20.2%. They had significantly worse performances in tests assessing memory (delayed reproduction in the 12-word test), attention, visuomotor co-ordination and mental flexibility.

Nadar (2016) shows that this is not just a Western phenomenon, as his study of Middle Eastern adults showed similar results. (2)

Proactively identifying hazards is good for everyone

Making employees aware of Health and Safety hazards will not only benefit them. It will benefit employers too.

See information from HSE – Health and Safety made simple.

“If you have taken reasonable steps to prevent accidents or harm to your employees (and the injury or illness was caused after 1 October 2013), you shouldn’t have to pay compensation.”

For information about how to consult your employees (see page 5 of the PDF above)
“Your employees are often the best people to understand risks in the workplace and involving them in making decisions shows them that you take their Health and Safety seriously.”

From the ROSPA – Driving for Work: Fitness to Drive guide

Health and Driving

‘A person’s fitness to drive can be affected by a medical condition…Driving, if not properly managed, may lead to a deterioration in health or aggravate a pre-existing condition (for example, lower back pain). Relevant health issues should always be considered in driving risk assessments.’ (ROSPA – Driving for Work: Fitness to Drive guide, page 2)

For overviews on risk assessments see: http://www.hse.gov.uk/ See the section called Risk Assessment http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/controlling-risks.htm

References

(1) Characteristics of Cognitive Functions in Patients with Chronic Spinal Pain
Neuroscience and Behavioural Physiology, 2011. (Melkumova, Podchufarova, Yakhno).

(2) The Cognitive Functions in Adults with Chronic Pain: A Comparative Study
Pain Research and Management. 2016; 2016: 5719380.
Mohammed Shaban Nadar, Zainab Jasem, and Fahad S. Manee
(3) Do Physical Activities Trigger Flare-ups During an Acute Low Back Pain Episode? Spine, Volume 43, Number 6, 15 March 2018. Suri, Pradeep; Rainville, James; de Schepper, Evelien; Martha, Julia; Hartigan, Carol; Hunter, David J.