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Is sitting the new smoking? Are you successfully managing risks to health from manual handling?

Posted by Richard Forster on 6 September 2016
Is sitting the new smoking? Are you successfully managing risks to health from manual handling?

"Sitting kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death."

So says Dr. James Levine Director of the Mayo Clinic Arizona State University. These deliberately provocative words are designed, in part, to refocus the global conversation amongst health and safety regulators, professionals and beyond. Dr. Levine is generally credited with coining the mantra "sitting is the new smoking." Continuing evidence seems to support the idea that prolonged sitting increases the risk of developing several serious illnesses including various types of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes as well as Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) such as lower back pain. Guidance on the control measures (including standing desks, variable height desks and treadmill desks are on the increase but there seems to be a concern about the general awareness amongst employers and workers relating to their general duties and the availability and suitability of such risk control measures.

Increased attention is being paid to both manual handling and sedentary work by the various health and safety regulators across Australia, in particular and New Zealand where we are working to broadly similar legislative requirements and an array of supporting codes and guidance. Worthy of special mention is the Comcare webpage for hazardous manual tasks that features various resources and checklists including one called 'Be upstanding' and another which is a virtual office risk management tool. WorkSafe Victoria has recently released new guidance on when and how to review and revise manual handling controls. The timing of this is interesting as it is set against the backdrop of a substantial review of the Victorian OHS Regulations in their entirety. This major review includes the part on manual handling and is likely to produce a new compliance code for hazardous manual handling that will replace a code of practice originally produced in 2000!  In short, there is a wide range of supporting codes and guidance available.

In general, it is acknowledged that MSD injuries are likely to be the biggest single workplace injury and subsequent claim. The main MSD injuries suffered in the workplace are as follows:

  • Sprains and strains of muscles, tendons and ligaments.
  • Back injuries - damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments, spinal discs, nerves, joints and bones.
  • Soft tissue injuries to the wrists, arms, shoulders,   neck or legs.
  • Abdominal hernias.
  • Chronic pain.

Studies from health and safety regulators and Government departments managing general health issues point out that

  • 80% - 90% of the population get back pain, in particular, at some point.
  • Most back pain settles within six weeks.
  • Back pain can return.

HAZCON can assist you to comply with your legal duties regarding hazardous manual handling and controlling the risks related to sedentary work as well as evidencing how you are continuing to improve your management of health and safety in general.

We would welcome the opportunity to have a discussion about the causes of MSD and outline the necessary actions to eliminate or control the associated hazards and risks associated with sedentary work and manual handling issues.

For further information, please contact Richard Forster or Andy Perry on 1800 429 266.

Author:Richard Forster
Tags:Richard ForsterPeter Attwood


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