Sedentary Work – A Safe Work Month Focus
More than 50% of Australian Workers have jobs that involve prolonged sitting at least some of the time according to Safe Work Australia. Each day, the average Australian spends 8-10 hours in a sedentary position. We should be aiming for less than 50% of our day spent sitting.
Evidence associates prolonged sitting with musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health. These outcomes are due to insufficient muscle activity, low energy expenditure and static posture.
Sedentary work also has costs to the employer with research showing prolonged sitting can lead to 9x more sick days and increased absenteeism. Furthermore, prolonged sitting is linked to poor work performance including reduced productivity and retention rates.
Safe Work Australia recognises sedentary work as a significant issue due to the high proportion of workers impacted compared with the relatively simple risk controls.
Sitting in general is not harmful, it is continuous periods of sitting (more than 30 minutes) that cause harm. Taking short, regular breaks from sitting is recommended. Cycling through sitting, standing and moving every 30 minutes is recommended. Stand while you are on the phone. When you stand, your muscles work 2.5 x harder than when you are sitting. Move away from your desk to chat with your colleague instead of sending an email. Moving burns 3 x more energy than sitting still.
What can you change about your day to reduced prolonged periods of sitting? And how can you be a safety champion at your workplace and encourage others to stand and move more often?
During Safe Work Month 2019, Safe Work Australia has been promoting the BeUpstanding toolkit. BeUpstanding is an initiative of The University of Queensland and is endorsed by Safe Work Australia and the Australian Government – ComCare. The BeUpstanding toolkit provides detailed and practical advice, based in research to change sedentary work behaviours. The toolkit offers guidance on increasing awareness, building culture and creating change in your workplace. Find out more at https://beupstanding.com.au/.