Health at work

November 12, 2012

Health at work

You, as a worker can do many things to boost your workplace wellbeing and reduce the risk of injury, accident or ill health. The number of days lost due to ill health and injuries caused at work in 2008/9 was a staggering 30 million days in the UK alone. Because we spent a lot of our lives at work it makes sense to identify what actions we can take to provide a more positive experience. The working environment contributes as much to our health and wellbeing as our free time and home life.

The two main causes of lost days in the UK is stress and back pain. Stress being responsible for 11.4 million days and back pain 9.3 million days. Stress manifests itself as anxiety, depression and work related stress. We all get pressure in our lives, it is crucial that we can deal with it successfully. Understand the symptoms of stress as it affects you and learn how to deal with it. At work, simple techniques such as prioritising your work load and learning to be assertive enough to explain why you cannot take any more work on at the moment are both good ways to help cope with work related stress.

Back pain was mainly caused by two types of actions, poor posture and twisting whilst lifting. It only takes one moment’s thoughtlessness to end up injured. Usually it took a few days off with rest but remaining active. Painkillers were often needed whilst recovering.

Other Issues

Some of the other issues included RSI (repetitive strain injury), sitting too long and exercise issues. RSI is more common amongst people who do not take breaks often enough, sit in uncomfortable chairs or have not set the workstation table and chairs to suitable heights for each other. Learn the correct technique for using the technology you are working with. This sort of injury is common with anybody who uses the same muscle group repetitively. Whenever you are sitting down you must make sure that you are comfortable, whether at a desk or computer. Workplace assessments can be provided and don’t over do things. It makes you less productive in the long term. Take a break regularly and 5 to 10 minutes off the keyboard every hour is reasonable.

Although exercise isn’t really an employment issue your work does suffer if you are unable to do it through a fitness issue. Make time to walk or cycle to work, use the stairs instead of the lift when you are at work. If it’s possible walk to the person’s desk rather than phoning, take a walk at lunch time or if there is a gym nearby do some exercise. If your fitness level rises so does your ability to do your job. Fitter people have less back injuries and more stamina.


All good employers understand that back injury can easily occur through poor lifting technique. They will show the correct methods to use to ensure that no damage to your back occurs whilst at work. Back injury is one of the biggest reasons for lost days at work and learning the correct method for lifting and handling objects can minimise the risk to your back.

To avoid lifting or handling items incorrectly some things to consider are:

  • Make sure that you are in a good well balanced position.

  • Never hold a load at arms length, keep things close to your body.

  • Only lift if the object is directly in front of you, no twisting or leaning.

  • Know what the weight is first; if it’s too heavy then do not even try to lift it.

  • Keep your head up.

  • Always push and never pull the item.

  • Distribute the weight evenly.

  • Think before you lift! Is everything clear? Is the situation safe?

  • Know your limits, do not try to do too much.


Because we spend so many hours at work we eat about 33% of our daily food intake there too.Healthy eating and drinkinghas a major effect on our wellbeing and energy levels too. If the meals aren’t well balanced or regular, then our performance drops too. If you don’t drink enough then the common symptoms of dehydration occur, that is headaches and inability to concentrate. You will probably feel ‘slow’ and lethargic too. To avoid these issues is very easy. It just takes a little planning and forethought.

When you either buy or make your lunch make sure that is not junk food, go for the healthy choice. Not too much sugar or fat, lots of fruit or vegetables. Shops, supermarkets, or if you’re lucky enough to have a work’s restaurant all sell balanced meals. A pack lunch is an excellent idea because you plan what to eat for yourself, a little more of something you like and a little less of something not quite as enjoyable. Your sandwich filling is made just the way you like it, because you made it!


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