Business of Well-being

Are You an Office Worker? Why Your Health May Be at More Risk Than You Think

While office workers typically feel that they are safe on the job and don't have to worry about health issues or injuries, the fact is that accidents and illnesses can crop up anywhere. People often slip, trip, or fall at work; have poor posture or strain their eyes; and are at risk of items falling on them, fires breaking out, or having to deal with poor air quality, to name just a few things.

In addition, keep in mind that if you're like lots of other people working in an office, you probably end up sitting at a desk for up to eight, if not, even more, hours every day. While you might feel like you have to put in the long hours at work in order to get where you want to with your career or business, the sad fact is that human bodies just weren't designed to be mobile for so long, and the load can be too much to bear.

Long hours sitting in one spot; repetitive motions such as typing; and a variety of office hazards, can all add up to numerous negative consequences for your health. These, in turn, can lead to you having to take time off work, or even face much more challenging, and even life-threatening, obstacles. If you need to make your health more of a priority this year, read on for the lowdown on the risks of working in an office that you might not have thought about, and what you can do about it today.

Common Office Hazards and Health Risks

Some of the most common injuries seen in offices are that of people hurting themselves when they slip, trip, or fall. This often happens when the floor surface becomes wet and slippery, or when there are too many things in the way on the floor for people to trip over. Accidents also happen when people fall off ladders, or when they use unsuitable things, like boxes or unstable crates, to climb up and reach for items.

Slips, trips, and falls can lead to a variety of injuries, but in particular cause neck and back pain and head injuries. Office workers commonly come away with sprains, strains, and breaks, too, especially of wrists, arms, legs, and ankles. These can happen due to the causes mentioned above, as well as from falling objects, or from attempting to lift, carry, or handle heavy or awkward objects alone, at difficult angles, or in cramped places.

Repetitive motion injuries (which cause strained muscles and tendons, particularly in the neck, hands, and arms) are also a big issue for office workers and happen more often than you might think. They typically occur because people spend so many hours writing, typing, drawing, or otherwise using computers and paper in a less-than-ideal way. Apart from the long-term and severe pain that people can suffer as a result, repetitive motion injuries can also lead to problems like vision issues and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Sitting at a desk all day can also be a major health hazard. According to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, sedentary behavior can increase your risk of developing a disease or chronic condition, which can lead to premature death. For example, you are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and various forms of cancer. Even if you exercise, sitting for long periods of time can still be a big issue. Heart disease is more likely too, as is your chance of suffering from herniated lumbar discs in your back, and other types of tendon and muscle-related problems.

Tips for Staying Safe and Healthy

To help yourself stay healthier and be safe at work, there are numerous things you can do. For starters, watch where you're working, and keep workspaces neat and tidy so that you'll have fewer hazards around to trip over or fall on you. Use safe techniques when moving, carrying, lifting and storing items, particularly heavy, bulky and awkward ones; and get assistance from your co-workers or aids such as forklifts and wheelbarrows.

You need to make sure that you use ergonomic equipment such as the right desks and chairs too. Plus, always take regular breaks to get up, move around, stretch, and blink your eyes. Make sure ladders are used correctly and regularly maintained, and replace pieces of equipment in the office which are faulty or old.

What to Do If You Get Hurt

If you get hurt in the workplace, take note of the specific details of the incident. Note the date, time, and location of the accident; the events leading up to it; and the environmental conditions at the time. Try to take photos if possible, and record the names (and statements if possible) of any witnesses to the event.

It is often wise to get some legal representation if you're thinking about putting in a workers' compensation or another claim after you have been hurt or developed an illness at work. In particular, make sure you seek out a specialist in the area, such as a Corpus Christi personal injury lawyer, so that you get the best and most up-to-date advice.

About the Author

Michael Shaw is an MIT-trained biochemist and former protege of the late Willard Libby, the 1960 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Based in the Greater Washington (DC) Area, Michael is a frequent writer and speaker about a variety of public health issues.

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