Podcast Title: Health and Safety to Go!

Episode #119:† Arthritis in the Workplace


Introduction Welcome to Health and Safety to Go, broadcasting from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

Host:† Thank you for joining us for this episode of Health and Safety To Go. Today weíre going to talk about arthritis and the steps you can take to reduce the adverse effects of arthritis in the workplace.

The Arthritis Society of Canada reports that arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in Canada and typically occurs during the prime working years, between ages 35-50. It is predicted that more than seven million Canadian adults will be diagnosed with arthritis in the next 20 years.

Arthritis can affect workers anywhere, in offices, manufacturing plants, retail environments and those working outdoors.  Common symptoms such as pain, fatigue, joint swelling, stiffness and limited movement, can make it difficult to perform any job. There is a wide variation in the symptoms experienced by the same person, including long periods with no symptoms.

Itís common for workers with arthritis to feel frustrated and/or anxious. According to a national study of arthritis in the workplace, many Canadians with arthritis are giving up breaks to complete tasks, and using sick days and taking vacation time to rest at home in order to continue working. Modifying the way you do your work and/or your work environment can help reduce the adverse effects of arthritis.

Organize your workspace so that frequently used items are within easy reach. Stand square to your workstation so youíre not bending or twisting, and use a footrest to decrease the pressure on your lower back if you work in a standing position or at a counter. Using an anti-fatigue mat can help to relieve strain on the lower back and legs if you stand for long periods of time on hard floors.

If you use a chair, use a chair mat to make it easier to slide or turn your chair. In some cases, it might be beneficial to use a sit-stand stool. Use of a telephone headset will reduce the amount of neck side bending required to hold the phone receiver.

Sit in a proper upright, relaxed position. You should feel no strain on your back, neck or limbs. Sit so your hips, knees, ankles and elbows are each at a 90 degree angle. Your arm rests should be at the right height, with your shoulders and elbows in a relaxed position. Make sure your chair is comfortable, that it provides good support to your back and legs, and is properly adjusted.

If you use a computer, use a split keyboard so your hands, wrists, and forearms are in a more natural position. A specially designed mouse called a trackball mouse can reduce the amount of hand and arm movement. Make sure your chair is within a comfortable distance from the computer and that your elbows are in a relaxed 90 degree angle to the keyboard. Your eyes should be about 40-70 cm (15-27 inches) from the monitor. You should be looking straight ahead and the screen should be at eye level.

If you must move heavy objects as part of your job, use a dolly or cart to help reduce strain in your back, arms and legs. Try to roll or slide heavy objects, if possible.  Push; donít pull.

Take your time moving objects: rushing could cause injury to your joints. Ask a co-worker for assistance. Use a step stool to reach items high on shelves, and use a briefcase on wheels when taking work home or to a meeting.

Also, wear comfortable footwear that supports your feet and promotes good posture. Avoid wearing shoes with high heels. Use insoles to help decrease strain on your feet, legs and lower back.

You can help mitigate the effects of arthritis by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Work at a moderate, reasonable pace and plan to get extra rest if you know you have an important event coming up at work. Save those important or more difficult tasks for when you feel the most energetic.

Switch it up to prevent straining yourself. Alternate your position from sitting, standing and walking as much as possible and take stretch breaks. And most of all, keep moving.

As an employer, you can:

For more information about arthritis visit www.ccohs.ca. Thanks for listening everyone.