What happened to the Health in Health and Safety??

Organisations these days are doing a pretty good job at Safety. The introduction of legislation in recent years around Occupational Health & Safety obligations has really improved our safety focus. However organisations are doing a really poor job of Health and in particular managing long-term chronic illness.

If you take a look at the safety slogans and replace the word “safety” with “health” you’ll see what I mean: “Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility; Safety – Habit of a Lifetime; Safety Starts with You” and my personal favourites “The Safe Way is the Only Way; and Safety First”. Great concepts and I’ll never take anything away from our Health & Safety brothers working to keep people out of harm’s way. Everyone has the right to go home to their families and loved ones safely.

But let’s take a look at these principles in terms of health: “Health First, or The Healthy Way is the Only Way”. Is health really first when our organisations supply vending machines full of coke and chocolate. And of course it wouldn’t be a work site without a pie warmer or pie van. Nothing against the good old Aussie pie but “The Healthy Way is the Only Way” I don’t think so.

Are you going home healthy?

Are you going home healthy?

Now to simplify the concept let’s apply it to people in sedentary (sitting) jobs only. Are you going home to your family in the same state you came to work in? “I didn’t hurt myself today” –OK good you had a safe day. Now let’s extend the period to 1 year of sitting in an office or driving a dozer and ask the same question. Are you going home to your family in the same state you came to work in?

Now my back pain is playing up, I get headaches from a sore neck, my blood pressure has increased, I’m at a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease, the strength of my bones has decreased and I’ll end up with early onset osteoporosis. My hip flexors are tight and I pulled my groin playing with the kids (my sporting career is over).

Then there’s the more subtle yet just as severe consequences – my risk of cancer has increased by 40% (1) (I really don’t want to get colon cancer, it’s one of my worst nightmares), my pelvic floor is weekend and I will eventually become incontinent (how I dread adult diapers). My breathing is shortened because my diaphragm is suppressed, which causes me to be in a state of stress and affects the quality of my sleep. Oh yeh and I’ve put on five kilos, I don’t like looking at that spare tyre in the mirror.

I do my hour of exercise after work three times a week, yet these things are still happening to me. These conditions are caused by my prolonged sitting, which is a separate contributor to my amount of exercise. I really need my job, as I love my work and it provides for my family. My employer is great but my job is sending me to an early grave. My employer definitely isn’t achieving “Zero Harm” in the workplace.

This may sound dramatic or over exaggerated, but this is reality, over 4 million Australians suffer incontinence (2), 3 and a half million Australians have heart disease (3).

Health can come first in the workplace. It’s very, very simple just like eating meat and veg is better than McDonald’s. We know how simple it is. The hard part is making the change and committing to a healthier longer life for ourselves and our employees. The simple solution is to move more and sit less. However it’s a bit more complicated when you introduce tight deadlines and an office environment and ergonomics that haven’t changed since the 1980’s. To put “Health First” our organisations need to systematically look at the risk factors, the causes and apply a hierarchy of controls including elimination, replacement and administration. We need to drive change from within, change our built environment, encourage and support each other, so that we all go home to our families or loved ones the same way we came to work – today and for the rest of our lives.

Office Revolution is committed to the real meaning of “No Harm” our Step Into the Flow Program will help you and your employees put “Health First” every single day in your workplace. You may call us ambitious but we will strive to send you and your people home in a better state of health than they came to work in. We achieve this though education, commitment, individual risk assessments and personalised training plans. We’ve adopted the best approaches from the schools of physiotherapy, chiropractors, yoga, pilates, Crossfit and human psychology to drive positive culture change for good. We’re creating a community of like-minded individuals to support change and drive behaviour.

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(1)    Sitting down ‘raises cancer risk’; John von Radowitz; From: AAP; June 17 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/sitting-down-raises-cancer-risk/story-fn3dxix6-1226956973080?nk=b5249fc910d19c4622e204e6400f5f9f


(2)    Australian incontinence data analysis and development; released: 2 Mar 2006 author: AIHW http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=6442467824


(3)    Cardiovascular disease: Australian facts 2011; released: 17 Mar 2011 author: AIHW http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737418510

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