Health in the Workplace


Beware of the photocopier – It bites…

Stunt Men have to dodge bullets and Lion Tamers have to avoid becoming overgrown kitty food, meanwhile the majority of us are safe from harm in our comfortable ‘clinical’ offices — or so you thought. In actual fact the modern office is a nest of potential injury and litigation, from guillotine CHOPS and paper cut SLASHES to severe back conditions.


According to the private health group millions of Americans take time off every day because of stress.

In total, nearly 60 percent of all absences from work are caused by stress. Stress is an inescapable part of modern life and every year sickness absence due to work related stress costs billions to businesses, however not all stress is bad news. In measured doses stress can be helpful…it can even make you better at what you do and help give you a competitive edge.

It is the intense form of stress which never lets up 24/7 that you have to look out for and can actually end up killing you.

The word stress derives from the Latin word ‘stringere’ meaning to ‘draw tight’ and was used during the seventeenth century to describe hardships or affliction.

Stress is the body’s reaction to an event that is seen as emotionally disturbing, or threatening. When we perceive such an event we experience a “fight or flight” response, which results in an increase in our heart rate and blood pressure; more blood is then sent to your heart and muscles, and your respiration rate increases.

This response was probably beneficial to our cavemen ancestors who had to fight off wild animals. Today we may not have an outlet for this stress and so it builds up and eventually causes us damage.

What Causes Stress?

Stress does not just originate in the workplace; we are susceptible to it in almost every aspect of our lives. Major causes of stress include illness, job changes, moving, separations and divorces, deaths in the family, and financial difficulties. Even happy events like marriage, the arrival of a baby, or entertaining friends, can be stressful.  

Top 10 causes of stress in our everyday lives:

    Death of a spouse/close family member
    Divorce/Marital separation
    Personal injury or illness
    Work redundancy
    Change in health of family member
    Sex difficulties
    Change in financial state

    Quick tips for managing stress

                 Try to avoid confrontation and situations that make you feel out of control Control change Take a break and relax frequently

    To master stress you will have to identify the situations in life that make you stressed and tense and making a concerted effort to avoid these factors. If that’s not realistically possible, try to lessen their effect on you (i.e., neutralise them).

    Things you can do to relax:

      Deep breathing
      Clearing your mind
      Progressive muscle relaxation
      Go Fishing

    Repetitive Strain Injury

    If you perform the same task repeatedly day in day out then your tendons, nerves, muscles, and other soft body tissues can become damaged.

    People working in occupations ranging from meatpackers to musicians have characteristic RSIs (Repetitive Strain Injuries) that can result from the typical tasks they perform. In the office environment the use of computers and flat, light-touch keyboards has resulted in an epidemic of injuries of the hands, arms, and shoulders.

    Use of pointing devices like mice and trackballs are as much of a cause, if not more so. The thousands of repeated keystrokes and long periods of clutching and dragging with mice slowly accumulate damage to the body: another name for the condition is Cumulative Trauma Disorder.

    This can happen even more quickly as a result of typing techniques and body positions that place unnecessary stress on the tendons and nerves in the hand, wrist, arms, and even the shoulders and neck. Lack of adequate rest and breaks and using excessive force almost guarantee trouble.  

    What are the Symptoms of RSI?

      Tightness, discomfort, stiffness, soreness or burning in the hands, wrists, fingers, forearms, or elbows Tingling, coldness, or numbness in the hands Clumsiness or loss of strength and co-ordination in the hands Pain that wakes you up at night Feeling a need to massage your hands, wrists, and arms

    How to Avoid RSI

    To prevent getting repetitive strain injury it is a good idea to stop whatever it is you are doing and take a break. If you are typing or using your mouse a lot then walk away from you computer and concentrate on a different task for a while and flex your fingers. Ergonomic mouse mats and wrist rests can also be of help.  

    Back Problems

    If you suffer from back problems already then hunching over a computer screen will only add to them. If you sit with terrible posture every day you will end up doing irreparable damage to your spine which may only become apparent later in life.

    Make sure you have a good upright chair so that you can sit with a straight back.

    Your feet should be able to rest flat on the ground with your desk at a convenient height to your hands. Make a point of getting up from your seat and walking to the drinks machine or the canteen stretching on the way.

    Other Office Hazards (although far less serious)

    Staplers – nasty little blighters make sure you don’t get one in your hand. Staple guns should come with health warnings…

    Paper – It lies there in wait looking inanimate and innocent but try to fold it and BAM! You get a paper cut…envelopes are particularly cruel.

    Colleagues – Don’t eat someone elses’ sandwiches or push too much paper in someone elses direction or face the wrath of your colleague. Rulers at dawn…on guard!

    Revolving doors – Careful not to get your fingers, lose clothing or your head stuck.

    Shredder – instant strawberry jam

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