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Desk Jockeys Beware

5 health hazards in the workplace

6548517_xlSingaporeans are working harder than ever before – nine in 10 choose to work beyond their official hours, according to 2012 survey by JobStreet.* Despite its comfortable, air-conditioned façade, the typical office environment can take a surprising toll on your health. Here are some workplace hazards you should watch out for and ways to hazard-proof yourself.

The Pantry

The pantry tops the charts for dirtiest place in the office, according to a study by Kimberly-Clark Professional which swabbed nearly 5,000 surfaces of manufacturing facilities, law firms, insurance companies and call centres. Surfaces on the microwave, refrigerator and water cooler are perfect sanctuaries for unwanted germs.

9308432_lHazard-proof yourself: Be diligent and thorough when washing your hands; use hand sanitiser where it’s available (perhaps carry one in your bag). Use your own coffee mug and wash them at least twice a day. Come to an agreement with co-workers to throw out perishable food left on counters or in the fridge every Friday. Nobody will want mould and bacteria growing everywhere.

The Office Chair

A poorly designed office chair may lead to poor sitting postures that increase the amount of load and tension on your spine and muscles. In extreme cases, spinal injuries such as slip discs and spinal nerve compressions may also result.

Hazard-proof yourself: Joanna Lim, occupational therapist with the Department of Rehabilitative Services at Changi General Hospital, recommends chairs with adjustable back rests that provide support for the lower back. It should also have enough room to allow your buttocks to fit comfortably with some room on either side of your hips.

The Atmosphere

Did you know that poor indoor air quality can damage our health just as outdoor pollution does? The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in the United States found workers in air-conditioned offices are 2 ½ times more prone to respiratory problems than peers in naturally ventilated environments. If you experience “sick building syndromes” in the office (such as runny nose, nausea and headache) which diminish as you leave, the air in your office could be the culprit.

Hazard-proof yourself: Talk to your colleagues; if they have similar complaints, sound them out to the management or safety officer. It may be high time to clean up the air-con systems. If there are windows in the vicinity, open them once in a while to ventilate your work space.

247104_lThe Computer Monitor

If you are a typical office worker, chances are you spend up to eight hours a day in front of a computer. While digital gadgets can increase work efficiency, they may overwork your eyes in the long run. Too much screen time may lead to itchy or dry eyes, headaches, blurry vision – all of which are indications of eyestrain, says Cammie Menendez, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas-Houston.

Hazard-proof yourself: Ophthalmologist Clayton Blehm recommends adjusting the height of your monitor so that its centre rests 2.5cm to 5cm below eye-level. Turn down the brightness of your screen as much as you can without causing discomfort to reduce strain on your eyes. Finally, take one-minute breaks every 20 minutes by closing your eyes, focusing on something else, or taking a walk.

9238516_xxlThe Computer Mouse and Keyboard

Prolonged usage of the mouse and keyboard can lead to repetitive stress injuries. Common conditions include carpal tunnel syndrome (compression in the wrists) and trigger finger (inflammation of a finger tendon).

Hazard-proof yourself: “Work with your shoulders in a relaxed position and avoid hunching. Keep your elbows close to your body, bent at about 90 degrees,” recommends Lim. To minimise stress on your finger joints, do not rest your wrist on the mouse when you are not using it and do not press too hard on the keys when typing. You should also avoid resting your wrists on the sharp edges of the table to avoid nerve compression.

*http://sg.news.yahoo.com/9-in-10-employees-working-overtime–survey.html Other References: Anon. (2007, Dec. 13). Five reasons your office is bad for you. Newsweek. Retrieved from http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2007/12/13/five-reasons-your-office-is-bad-for-you.html. Hong, X. (2009, Feb. 19). Cubicle calamities. The Straits Times. Pikul, C. (2012, Jul. 6). Can you guess the dirtiest places in your office? Oprah. Retrieved from http://www.oprah.com/blogs/Can-You-Guess-the-Dirtiest-Places-in-Your-Office. Ryan, R. (n.d.) The health hazards in your office. Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-85402/The-health-hazards-office.html#axzz2Ka6oIcBM. Personal communication with Joanna Lim, occupational therapist with Changi General Hospital

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by Kelly Ng
Posted by ezyhealth on Jun 10 2013. Filed under Lifestyle. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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