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Whether you work fifteen or forty hours a week, your job can be physically and mentally draining and affect your health and well-being. Prolonged sitting or standing or poor posture can cause pain and other health effects; fatigue and lack of sleep can make it difficult to concentrate, and inactivity and poor eating choices can contribute to weight gain and other health issues.
But it's not all gloom and doom. With all the time you spend at work, the workplace provides the ideal setting to promote healthy behaviours and prevent disability and disease through healthy, safe work environments. Research has shown that healthy organizations are good for employees, as well as the bottom line. A healthy workplace has a culture and practices that support employee health and safety and create comprehensive, successful and sustainable wellness programs for their employees. It's no secret that healthy workplaces have a competitive advantage and incur fewer costs associated with absenteeism, recruitment, and healthcare. Healthy workers equal healthy organizations.
Even small, positive actions can make a big difference, and often have a ripple effect. Here are some things you can do to help promote and achieve good health at work.
Employers can support healthy eating programs by providing time for employees to go to information sessions, offering healthy food options in the cafeteria and vending machines, or by having refrigerators and microwaves for employees to store and prepare meals appropriately.
For the employee's perspective, eat at least every four hours to keep your energy up. Preparing and packing your own lunch can be not only healthier - giving you more control over hidden calories and fats - but cheaper as well. Choose foods that have been prepared with little or no added fat, sugar or salt. Use the Canadian Food Guide as a reference to prepare nutritious meals. In the busy world we live in, you have to figure out what works best for you, for example, making your lunch the night before. Planning ahead and being organized are key to healthy eating.
Keep healthy snacks on hand such as small bags of nuts, raw vegetables or fruit, or cheese and yoghurt. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and keep muscles healthy.
Stretch it out and break it up
Sitting for prolonged periods may seem like a good way to be productive, however it can be very unhealthy and place excessive strain on the body systems, especially if your workstation is not set up correctly. Set an alarm to remind yourself to get up, move around and change position. If working at a computer - every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look 20 feet away. This 20-20-20 rule will help rest your eyes and help prevent eye strain. After 30 minutes of continuous typing, take a quick break to rest hands. Resist shaking them out as that can cause injury to wrists. Do stretches at your desk to help your circulation and avoid muscle and joint stiffness and discomfort. Employers should encourage their employees to stretch and take their micro breaks to help prevent the development of musculoskeletal disorders.
Watch your position and posture
Whether you work sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time, change body positions frequently. Don't sit for more than 50 minutes at a time. It's important to set up your desk or workstation to achieve good posture. When sitting at a desk, position yourself close to the work station with your shoulders relaxed, wrists straight, and elbows tucked in. Lumbar supports in chairs can be helpful to reduce the likelihood of developing low back pain. Monitors should be at eye level. Keep your keyboard close to you at a level that doesn't require too much reaching and isn't too high or low. Sit with legs flexed at a 90-degree angle with feet resting comfortably on the floor or foot rest.
When lifting, use proper techniques such as using your legs and keeping the object close to the middle of your body, to prevent being injured.
To walk extra steps, park a little further away, walk over to your coworker rather than phoning or email, and walk to the furthest restroom. Take the stairs where you can. If you feel really adventurous, try holding "walking" meetings where you can go for a walk while you talk and meet.
For a true break, get away from the cubicle or out of the building. Take a walk in the park or stroll along a quiet, calming street and experience nature. Not only will you get some exercise, but you will also get a mental break that will help relax and recharge you. Keep walking shoes and/or workout clothes close by to make it easy to be active. If possible, try to exercise on your lunch break, or before or after work.
Sleep is needed to restore the body, repair the damage from the day as well as stimulate brain growth, consolidate memories, and for emotional rejuvenation. It is very important to get a good night's sleep, which should be about seven to eight hours per night. To promote good sleep, create a routine by going to bed and getting up at the same times. Ensure that the room in which you sleep is a cool, dark, quiet space. If necessary, use earplugs, an eye mask, and darkening blinds. Time it so you aren't eating a large meal right before bed time.
Make good health a habit
The workplace can play an important role in worker health by providing a safe and healthy physical work environment, ensuring a healthy balance between workers' home and work lives and control over the work, and supporting healthy lifestyles by making the healthy choice, be the easy choice.
Employees can develop healthy habits and make healthy choices at home and at work to feel better both physically and mentally.
Tune in for Healthy Habits That Work free webinar
Get up to speed on healthy habits you can adopt during your working hours. In this quick 30-minute webinar, you'll learn numerous strategies for eating better, keeping active, improving the physical environment, and staying mentally fit - and discover the roles that both employers and workers can play in achieving and maintaining a healthy work/life balance. All you need is a computer connected to the Internet and speakers.
When: Tues. Oct. 8, 2013 1-1:30 pm EDT
Register for the webinar.
Fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in Canada, and specifically in Nova Scotia, in which just under half of the country's fishing fatalities occurred. The majority of fatalities in the fishing industry are drownings.
To raise awareness of these hazards and help prevent fishing-related injuries and deaths, Nova Scotia launched a campaign called Who Do You Wear Your PFD for?. The campaign, launched in August 2013, aims to remind fish harvesters across the province about the importance of wearing lifejackets while working on water. The initiative involves holding man-overboard drills at community events, showcasing important safety practices, and asking fishermen to 'take the pledge' to wear a personal flotation device (PFD).
The Occupational Health and Safety legislation in Nova Scotia requires that PFDs be worn where there is a risk of drowning. PFDs greatly increase chances of rescue and survival.
Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia CEO Stuart MacLean said a PFD is a visible symbol of health and safety leadership. "For too long in this province, fishing has been associated with heartbreak," said MacLean. "By choosing to wear a PFD, fishermen are shifting the culture of loss and establishing a culture of safety in their industry."
The campaign is a partnership between the Nova Scotia Fisheries Sector Council, the Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia, the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, and the Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia.
This month's Health and Safety To Go! This month's Health and Safety To Go! podcasts discuss effective workplace inspections, and feature an encore presentation on work-related asthma.
Feature Podcast: Effective Workplace Inspections - More Than Meets the Eye
Hazards can exist under desks, on the plant floor, in the air and pretty much any place people work. Inspecting the workplace regularly for hazards is an essential part of a health and safety program. Inspections help to prevent injuries and illnesses by identifying and eliminating existing and potential hazards.
There's more to a workplace inspection than just looking around. It involves listening to people's concerns, fully understanding jobs and tasks, determining the underlying causes of hazards, monitoring controls, and recommending corrective action. This podcast discusses how regular, thorough, workplace inspections by a trained inspection team can help keep workers healthy and safe.
The podcast runs 4:41 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore Podcast: Putting the Spotlight on Work-Related Asthma
Dr. Michael Pysklywec, Occupational Health Physician at the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers Inc., explains what work-related asthma is, who's most at risk, and how this condition is diagnosed.
The podcast runs 8:58 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!
See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.
You are a student in an occupational health and safety program in a Canadian college or university working towards an occupational health and safety certificate, diploma or degree - and like most, you could use some extra money. If this is you, you already have what it takes to qualify for a CCOHS scholarship.
The Dick Martin Scholarship Award, an annual, national scholarship, is offered by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) to help foster interest and the pursuit of higher education in the field of occupational health and safety.
Two scholarships worth $3000 each will be awarded to one winning university student and one winning college student.
Winning the Dick Martin Scholarship Award is an impressive achievement. Past recipients have gone on to pursue additional studies, embark on exciting, rewarding careers in occupational health and safety and ultimately make a difference in the lives of workers. Winning the award is a testament not just to the quality of a student's application, but is also recognition of his or her passion for health and safety, and desire to aid in the prevention and elimination of workplace injuries and illnesses.
To apply for the award, post-secondary students are invited to submit a 1000 -1200 word essay on one of two topics related to occupational health and safety. Essays will be judged on the intellectual content, the practical and theoretical value and the presentation and style. The deadline to apply for the Dick Martin Scholarship Award is January 31, 2014.
Every year, the Scholarship Award Committee receives a high number of worthy applications. Applying for the award is more than just sending in a letter and hoping for the best; it requires a certain commitment of time and energy to come up with a winning essay and cover letter.
If you are thinking of applying, here are the top five pointers from the Award Committee:
1. Find a topic that interests you.
We want to see more than a recycled research paper. Anyone can copy and paste bullets into a paper. It's the essays that take facts, summarize them, and then go one step further that get our attention. Tell us why these facts are important, how it relates to your concern, or how using the facts can be used to make a change in the workplace or to improve one of the many aspects of health and safety (e.g. awareness, training, program development, new ideas or approaches, etc.).
2. Be persuasive.
The essay should demonstrate not only that you understand the topic from a theoretical point of view, but that you can apply practical solutions to the problem. Avoid trying to impress the reader with the amount of research you did, tell them how you can relate the topic to the real world. Use examples to help clarify points. Come to a conclusion based on the research you found and your personal opinion.
3. Cover letters are very important.
The cover letter should reveal the motivation and commitment of the writer to occupational health and safety. A cover letter is your chance to connect with the reader on a personal level.
4. Pay attention to structure and format.
Your essay should have an introduction, body and conclusion. Be sure to follow the instructions to ensure your application will be considered. For example, an essay that goes above the 1200 word limit will not be accepted.
Spell check. Get a friend or trusted advisor to read your submission over for clarity and flow. Don't submit your application the day you complete it - put it down and read it the next day with a fresh set of eyes. Of course, it goes without saying that you should try to complete your work in advance of the deadline.
Find more information about the Dick Martin Scholarship Award, including the online application form, on the CCOHS website.
Listen to a podcast with two former recipients of the Dick Martin Scholarship.
Read a previous scholarship winner's advice to students: "Go for it"
Workplace Health & Safety Matters
In his most recent blog post, CCOHS President and CEO Steve Horvath, freshly back from his Singapore travels, shares insights from his trip and on the Workplace Health and Safety Institute conference at which he spoke.
Last week I was in Singapore as part of a panel of experts to prepare a framework and global guidelines on the Duty of Care for employers. Several countries were represented around the table, and we exchanged information from the perspectives of our own national experiences. After much dialogue, we completed a consensus report that will provide a framework for employers to establish policies, procedures and best practices towards improving management systems.
In the afternoon, four of us went on to speak at the Workplace Health and Safety Institute conference as part of a panel discussion on Singapore's Vision Zero campaign to eliminate workplace injuries and illness. It was a lively two-way dialogue with insightful questions from an engaged, multi-disciplinary audience, all of whom had a concern for health and safety and were interested to hear about future initiatives in that area.
Stay in the loop. Workplace Health and Safety Matters is the blog of Steve Horvath, President and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2021, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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