Your day job is more dangerous than you may realise. Whilst you may not have the imminent dangers that a firefighter or bomb disposal technician faces, there may be more long-term and hidden health risks within your line of work. Here are just a few ways that you could be doing damage to your health in the workplace and how to minimise this harm.
Sitting down too long
Got a nine to five desk job? Sitting down all day could be doing all manner of physical harm to your body. Too much sitting down can waste away the muscles in your stomach and cause you to get overweight. Those craning over a desk meanwhile can cause damage to their spine and neck over time, whilst constantly bent knees can lead to these joints getting affected. Physical inactivity all day meanwhile has been linked to cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
There are ways to combat some of these health risks. The simplest solution is to force yourself to get up more. This could include putting a phone on the opposite side of the room so you have to get up to answer it. There are even standing desks, which can allow you to use your PC whilst standing up. Another option could be to simply exercise more out of work hours. If you commute to your workplace by car but live nearby, you could even try walking or taking a bike. There even options whilst you’re at work – deskercises are exercises that can be performed behind a desk that allow you to stay active and can combat all the various health risks of sitting down all day. There all exercises out there for people with driving jobs that may see them sat behind a wheel all day.
Standing up too long
Those that don’t have a desk job and are constantly on their feet may also be putting their bodies at risk. Too much standing up can cause excess pressure on the hips, knees and ankles. This has been linked to musculoskeletal disorders such as heart diseases. Like sitting down all day, it can also cause heart problems.
Whilst these jobs may not give you the option to sit down frequently and take a break, there are still ways to limit the physical damage. Wearing comfy orthopaedic shoes can relieve the pressure on your joints. There are shoes in all professions that can ease this pressure. Heels are definitely not recommended for a job that requires you to be on your feet all day – these will speed up the damage to your joints. Taking the pressure off your feet whilst not at work can also help give your joints a rest (you can still do sat down exercises!).
Many jobs can leave workers exposed to high levels of noise which can cause hearing loss. Whilst some workplaces have to provide ear protection by law such as airports, construction sites and shooting ranges, other workplaces such as nightclubs and busy pubs don’t. Wearing ear protection is advised in any job environment which regularly exceeds 85 decibels, which includes nightclubs. If you don’t want to wear earplugs, you should at least consider taking a noise detox after every shift (i.e. not playing music loudly in your spare time or going to noisy places). This will give your ears time to recover and potentially allow damaged cells to rebuild.
Working in a dimly lit environment can put a strain on the eyes and cause damage to your vision. This is especially the case with tasks that involve reading or looking at something closely. Contrasts in lighting can also be bad for the eyes. For example, staring at a bright computer screen in a dark room can cause strain.
Make sure that there’s always sufficient lighting in the work environment. As for computer screens, programmes such as Flux are useful to download, matching the lighting on your screen to the time of day to minimise the contrast. Try to minimise screen glare from the sun in summer as this too can cause eye strain.
Many jobs can cause people to develop repetitive strain injuries resulting in joint diseases such as tendonitis and arthritis. The most common RSI (repetitive strain injury) is tendonitis in the fingers as a result of too much typing on a keyboard. Many manual labour jobs may also come with their own unique RSIs.
Most of these repetitive strain motions aren’t easy to pick up until body parts start hurting. In cases, such as typing, it may be difficult to regularly take a break. There are programs out there such as Albion StopNow which can tell when to take breaks from typing to protect your joints. These breaks could be used to do other jobs such as using the phone, researching – or even doing some deskercises!
Poor air circulation
Poor air circulation indoors can lead to respiratory diseases such as asthma. With nowhere to escape dust and vapours from chemicals are more likely to enter the lungs and cause damage. Unclean air conditioning meanwhile can cause serious health problems and has been linked to the deadly lung disease Legionnaires.
An easy way to combat poor air circulation is to always keep the workplace well ventilated by keeping a window open. If the office faces a busy road, it could be worth fitting an extractor fan instead – this will stop pollutants from outside getting in the office. Air conditioning units meanwhile should be regularly cleaned out to avoid dust and dirt building up in them. Professionals can be called in to do this job.
Many tools in the workplace can get regularly handled but never cleaned. These tools can often end up carrying bacteria which is spread amongst colleagues. This can cause illness to be easily spread. A common culprit is computer keyboards. All it takes is someone who is ill to sneeze on a keyboard and for another colleague to then use it. Computer keyboards meanwhile have been found to carry other bacteria as a result of crumbs falling between the keys and going mouldy, consequently causing illness.
It’s worth always giving such equipment a quick clean. It may even be worth giving your keyboard a deep clean once a year by taking all the keys off and wiping beneath. You can buy special cleaning kits for these items.
You don’t have to work in a scientist’s laboratory to handle chemicals. Many workplaces use chemicals for cleaning, although may not always use correct health and safety precautions. These chemicals can cause reactions in some cases that may result in rashes or respiratory problems.
You should always refrain from mixing cleaning chemicals and ideally use gloves when using such chemicals to prevent rashes on the hands. COSHH offer various health and safety laws concerning the use of chemicals – it could be worth talking to your employer if you do not think these rules are being put into place.
Too much coffee
Okay, so few jobs require employees to drink coffee. However, for many a regular cup of coffee comes part and parcel with the job. Too much caffeine however can cause high blood pressure, which can contribute to various cardiovascular problems. It can also cause dehydration and insomnia.
Try drinking less coffee throughout the day and more water. Whilst this may not wake you up like a hot cup of Americano, it’s far healthier and good for your concentration. Herbal teas may be a solution for those wanting a hot drink that’s healthy.
Work related stress
Constant stress at work is thought to be as bad for your body as smoking. Stress increases the blood pressure and leads to all manner of cardiovascular problems (it’s thought to be one of the biggest causes of heart attacks). It can also affect sleep and digestion, whilst muscle tension from being stressed can cause the body to feel tired and achy.
If your job is stressful to the point of being unenjoyable, it’s generally a good decision to find another job – even if it is well-paid your health is more important. If you can cope with the stress and otherwise find your job rewarding, it could be worth focusing on different ways to relax in your spare time. Taking a bath at the end of each day, drinking herbal teas, listening to music and meditating can all relieve stress. You should also consider how you get to work – commuting for many can be a stressful process that can often be made less stressful by taking alternative transport or doing a relaxing activity whilst commuting.
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