How Obesity Can Affect Productivity

obesity chart based on waist sizeGives a whole new meaning to, “Cutting the fat!”

To keep moving and to live a full and productive life it is imperative to keep healthy. Sometimes circumstances beyond our control can impact our lives, slowing us down and affecting the way we would normally function. However, there are things within our control that we can do to ensure we stay fit and healthy so we can be productive in terms of both industry and leisure. Before we look at the solutions ranging from exercises to bariatric procedures, let’s address the problem of obesity and how it can get in the way of working life. Whatever the nature of your work, obesity can have a very negative impact on productivity, making you feel sluggish and unable to concentrate. The severely obese may suffer from reduced movement and if it’s hard to get around on a day-to-day basis then this immediately limits the type of work you can carry out efficiently. In a similar way, if your weight is affecting your stamina it will affect your ‘get-up-and-go’ so even desk based jobs will prove problematic and then there are the complications associated with sheer size if your bulk makes it uncomfortable for you to sit in an office chair all day.

Poor Health means Poor Productivity

Obesity also presents higher risks of health incidents within the workplace. Severely overweight employees are at greater risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and strokes. Not only does this put them at personal danger, but it impacts on productivity and has implications for employer’s medical care and insurance costs.

Continue reading How Obesity Can Affect Productivity

An Integrated Approach to Worker Health

Harvard center announces the release of the SafeWell Practice Guideline. The SafeWell Guidelines provides a model, strategies, and resources for comprehensive approaches to worker health that integrate and coordinate efforts to: 1) promote healthy behaviors, 2) ensure a safe and healthy work environment, and 3) provide resources for balancing work and life.

work life balance illustration featuring fulcrum with house on one side and hard hat on the other
Work Life Balance Also Helps Balance the Books

Harvard School of Public Health Center for Work, Health and Well‐being

The purpose of the SafeWell Practice Guidelines (SafeWell Guidelines) is to provide a model and resources for comprehensive approaches to worker health that integrate and coordinate efforts to promote healthy behaviors, ensure a safe and healthy work environment, and provide resources for balancing work and life. The goal is that the Guidelines will provide organizations with a framework for implementing a comprehensive worker health program, along with specific strategies pertaining to the details of implementation. This includes descriptions of organizational processes, selected concrete tools, and links to other existing tools and resources to build, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive health program at your worksite.


Ergonomics: Fitting the Job for Total Worker Health


Total Worker HealthTM (TWHTM) champions the idea that workplace health promotion programs could be more effective if they incorporate attention to workplace health protection, and vice versa. What exactly does this mean in practice?

One particular approach is by the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workforce (CPH-NEW)pastedGraphic.pdf, one of the four NIOSH Centers of Excellence to Promote a Healthier Workforce. CPH-NEW shapes their approach with the relatively new knowledge about the role of working conditions as obstacles to health promotion goals as well as the fact that many workplace health promotion (WHP) programs are not very successful with low-income workers.

Traditionally, WHP has focused on trying to improve individuals’ health behaviors (exercise, diet, smoking, etc.), stress management and/or coping skills. However, these behaviors should be viewed not only as individual choices but also as decisions made in relation to the person’s environment. A great deal of scientific evidence now shows that the physical and psychosocial work environment also has a large impact on health behaviors. For example, work scheduling (e.g., night shifts, overtime) is an important risk factor in eating and exercise patterns and obesity. Few opportunities for decision-making on the job are strongly associated with obesity, alcohol consumption, smoking, and lack of aerobic exercise during leisure time.

WHP professionals often feel that they can do nothing about the working conditions of the employees whom they are trying to reach. Yet these conditions are not necessarily fixed and immutable. Improved work organization can provide time, space, and material and social support for improvements in dietary choices, smoking cessation, participation in exercise classes, and improved work-family balance. On the other hand, ignoring the underlying causes of stress by failing to address psychosocial stressors at work may undermine the very health goals that are targeted by a WHP program.

Even worse, these job features often land most heavily on low-income workers. Thus, it should not be surprising if their participation is lower, their drop-out rates are higher, or their outcomes are less successful.

How can this dilemma be resolved, and where does ergonomics fit in? Occupational ergonomics is the science of “fitting the job to the worker.” It is not only concerned about finding correct workstation heights or preventing musculoskeletal disorders – in its broadest conceptualization, it provides a framework to address the workplace preconditions of job stress. Ergonomics offers several important contributions to WHP programming.

Continue reading Ergonomics: Fitting the Job for Total Worker Health

The War on Smoking Expands to the Job Market


workers smoking on a beam suspended from skyscraperThere is no doubt that smoking cigarettes is not conducive to living a healthy lifestyle, and few places have done more to eradicate smoking than California. Ever since California became the first state to ban smoking in 1995, it has been spearheading the war against smoking tobacco. This was followed by a ban on smoking within 20 feet of a public building in 2004, and smoking in a car with a minor in 2008.

These bans seem to have struck a major blow in the fight for a smoke-free California, but some argue that the bans infringe on civil rights. With recent reports of companies that refuse to hire smokers, the issue of exactly what rights smokers have, and whether refusal to hire them qualifies as discrimination have come to light. From the company’s point of view, it’s understandable to not want a worker that is going to be taking a large amount of smoke breaks and racking up higher insurance premiums, not to mention the potential for unhappy, non-smoking coworkers who have to be exposed to it to some degree. But while laws have been put in place to prevent corporations from discriminating against sex, race, disability, and sexual preference, it is legal in 21 states to not hire smokers. Surprisingly, California is not yet among them.

Workplaces that Refuse to Hire Smokers

Early 2012, Baylor Health Care Systems of Dallas announced that it will refuse to hire smokers. They join companies like Cleveland Clinic, who has not hired anyone who tested positive for nicotine in the last five years. This trend is not limited to the health care industry. Hollywood Casino in Toledo, Ohio and the Georgia Power company have followed suit, conducting tests in the hiring process that identify nicotine users. This begs the question of what’s next? Will those who engage in other unhealthy habits, like drinking alcohol, eating fast food, or abusing prescription drugs be the next ones to be refused jobs? Very likely, the offensive nature of smoking is what has become its downfall. Many non-smokers hate cigarettes, and with major moves that make smoking as cumbersome as it is harmful, the future for tobacco users looks more grim than ever.

Related Links

American Lung Association:

Cleveland Clinic:

Federal Tobacco Legislation:

Can You Rewire Your Safety Culture?

Check out the video – it’s good information, well done and short.  

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By Terry Bogyo

I was invited to deliver the keynote presentation at the “Make It Safe” conference a few days ago. The event was hosted by the FIOSA-MIOSA Safety Alliance of BC, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters of BC, and WorkSafeBC.

The FIOSA — MIOSA Safety Alliance of BC, is a not-for-profit industry organization that seeks to address challenges and opportunities specific to food & beverage processing and manufacturing and to set industry standards for health and safety.

The industries represented in the room were ideal for my topic, “Rewiring your Safety Culture.” Most participants had great safety backgrounds, but my goal was to take their thinking about safety beyond the lagging indicators such as injury free days, injury counts, and reportable injury frequency rates. The manufacturing sector has made huge strides in improving safety and health but to take the industry to the next level of safety will mean rewiring the way we think about safety and how we measure our progress.

Manufacturing has been the focus of much research on safety culture. The rich research in this sector provided me with examples from oil refineries, commercial bakeries, electronics manufacturing, and metal fabrication to illustrate my point. Continue reading Can You Rewire Your Safety Culture?

How To Dodge The Office Cold

Poster promoting the use of the Vampire Sneeze to prevent spread of colds and fluWith the weather getting colder, you’ll start hearing sniffles from the cubicle down from you. Then one or two people will be off sick. Before you know it, you’ve got their cold and have to struggle through to get work done yourself. Working when ill, especially near the end of the month, can be the worst; the time when you can’t think about anything with your head feeling like it’s been inflated to the size of a small melon.

Unfortunately, when you see the same people everyday in an enclosed environment, pass around the same documents and share the same equipment, germs are going to spread. So below are some tips if you work in an office and don’t want to get sick:

1) Getting to Work

If you commute to work using public transport, this is the worst start to the day. If you can, drive yourself in to avoid being pushed up against people on the tube or having someone sneeze in your face on a crowded bus. If you have to take public transport, try and keep your mouth covered with a scarf, or tucked into your chest. You’ll probably also be getting up early, when the sun isn’t quite out, so keep yourself nice and warm with a winter jacket, gloves, hat and even some thermals.

2) When You Come In

When you come in, the first thing you should do is wipe down your keyboard, mouse and desk with anti-bacterial wipes. While your office is probably cleaned every night, you can’t say for sure how thorough a job they’ve performed. Try and avoid letting others use your computer, equipment and stationery throughout the day. If they borrow a pen, let them keep it. Ideally, your office will have alcohol-rub dispenser on the way in, but if they don’t, bring in your own for personal use, or if you’re generous, one for the whole office (perhaps clear it with HR first, who may do it themselves).

3) Lunch and Breaks

Try and stay indoors rather than take breaks outside in the cold or with the smokers. When it comes to lunch, ideally you don’t want to use the kitchen facilities apart from the fridge to store your lunch which should be well-wrapped. If you suspect that something is going round, make an excuse and eat lunch elsewhere rather than sit where everyone is. If there’s a place nearby where you can sit in the warm, do that; being a bit anti-social is better than missing a day of work and getting sick yourself.

4) Managing Others

If someone you manage or supervise seems like they’re ill or like they’re about to be ill, and you have the power to do so, recommend that they go home sick or not come in the next day. It’s best to stop anything from spreading to others and if they’re ill, they’re not going to be working at their best. If they can, they can complete tasks at home and correspond through email. Of course, you can’t send everyone home but if they aren’t working on anything of too high a priority or their work can be covered easily by someone else, then this would be better.

5) How to Sneeze or Cough

Rather than sneeze into the atmosphere openly or into your hands and then continuing to type, sneeze into the inside of your arm. This is called the “Vampire Sneeze” or “Dracula Sneeze” because it mimics the famous character’s pose of hiding his face into his cloak. It’s considered the best way to sneeze and still prevent the spread of germs. Keep a hankie handy and be conscious of your sniffing around others. You may not realise it, but in a quiet office, listening to the person working next to you sniff every other minute can be a bit annoying. Pop outside or to the loo and get it out of your system.

There are other things you can do anyway to prevent the spread of bacteria anywhere. These include things you should do anyway, like always washing your hands after going to the loo (especially the fingernails, which is where the most bacteria builds up over the course of a day) and making sure you have fruit & veg in your diet consistently.. Additional lengths you may want to take can include taking vitamins like Vitamin C, or supplements like cinnamon supplements, which can boost your immune system and resistance to the flu.

Paul is currently working alongside a health and wellness company who specialise in natural treatments like cinnamon for health purposes as well as for cooking. He works in a small office environment, so knows about taking extra precautions to prevent himself from getting ill in these small spaces.

Nearly 1 in 12 Injured Workers Who Started Narcotics Were Still Using Them 3-6 Months Later

Chart showing more deaths from opioid pain relievers greater than all illicit drugsAccording to New WCRI Study

Cambridge, MA ( – With opioid misuse a top public health problem in the United States, a new report by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) showed that few physicians were following recommended treatment guidelines to prevent it.
This report, Longer-Term Use of Opioids, examined longer-term use of narcotics (or opioids) in 21 states and how often recommended treatment guidelines for monitoring injured workers with longer-term use were followed by physicians. The monitoring includes services, such as drug testing and psychological evaluations, which can help prevent opioid misuse by injured workers that could result in overdose deaths, addiction, and diversion. However, the study found relatively low compliance with the medical treatment guidelines in most states.
“This study addressed a very serious issue: how often doctors followed recommended treatment guidelines for monitoring injured workers under their care, who are longer-term users of narcotics,” said Dr. Richard Victor, WCRI’s Executive Director. “This study will help public officials, employers, and other stakeholders understand as well as balance providing appropriate care to injured workers while reducing unnecessary risks to patients and costs to employers.”
Among the study’s findings:
 • More frequent and longer-term use of narcotics may lead to addiction and increased disability or work loss. Nearly 1 in 12 injured workers who started narcotics were still using them 3-6 months later.
 • Drug testing was used less frequently than recommended by medical treatment guidelines. Among claims with longer-term use of narcotics, 18-30 percent received drug testing in most states studied, with the 21-state median at 24 percent. Over the study period, the percentage of workers with longer-term use of narcotics who received at least one drug test increased from 14 to 24 percent in the median state.
 • Use of psychological evaluation and treatment services continued to be low. Only 4–7 percent of the injured workers with longer-term narcotic use received these services in the median state. Even in the state with the highest use of these services, only 1 in 4 injured workers with longer-term narcotic use had psychological evaluation and 1 in 6 received psychological treatment. Little change was seen in the frequency of use of these services.

Don’t Fork Over Any Free Rides on Forklifts

Forklift Safety diamond shape signThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Continental Terminals Inc., based in Jersey City, with 18 alleged safety and health violations at the company’s warehouse in Kearney. OSHA initiated an inspection upon receiving a complaint. Proposed fines total $162,400.

Citations carrying $98,000 in penalties have been issued for two willful violations that involve permitting employees to ride on the forks of forklifts and a failure to provide fall protection on platforms. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Fifteen serious violations include locked or sealed emergency exit doors, improperly labeled doors, the improper storage of liquid propane tanks, unsanitary restrooms, unsafe material storage, unauthorized personnel being allowed to ride on powered industrial trucks, powered industrial trucks left unattended with a load raised and the engine running, not taking power industrial trucks out of service when in need of repair, permitting employees to operate a compactor without guards or an interlock in place and exposing employees to live electrical parts.

The violations also include failing to implement a hazard communication program, provide training or material safety data sheets to employees handling hazardous chemicals, have a continual and effective hearing conservation program for employees exposed to noise at 85 decibels or greater as a time-weighted average, have a noise monitoring program for employees exposed to 85 decibels or greater, have an audiometric testing program for employees exposed to noise and provide auxiliary directional lighting on powered industrial trucks for areas where the general lighting was less than two lumens per square foot. The citations carry $64,400 in penalties.

One other-than-serious violation is failing to provide Appendix D of the respiratory protection standard to employees who voluntarily wear filtering face piece respirators. This citation does not carry a penalty.

“These violations reflect the company’s lax attitude toward workplace safety and health,” said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA’s Parsippany Area Office. “Without the proper safeguards in place, employees are vulnerable to accidents that can cause injuries and even death.”

The citations can be viewed at:* and*.

Continental Terminals, with 10 employees at its Kearny warehouse, has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Parsippany office at 973-263-1003. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit