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Workplace safe and sound


Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON

You can avoid injuries by thinking before you lift.

WORK-RELATED injuries and illnesses are all too common in Cambodia and around the world.

To provide workers with some level of insurance against workplace accidents, Cambodian employers are now required to contribute to a National Social Security Fund (NSSF), from which injured workers can seek financial compensation or reimbursement of their medical costs related to workplace accidents.

While we tend to think of people who do dangerous or manual jobs as most at risk of workplace accidents, plenty of people working in offices and shops also suffer injuries and illnesses at work. All workers and employers should treat health and safety as a serious issue in their workplace.

The most common health and safety problems office workers are exposed are:

  • back injuries caused by lifting heavy objects or bending down to pick things up
  • breaks and sprains from tripping over wires, falling down stairs and slipping on wet floors
  • head and neck injuries from being hit by falling objects
  • back and neck soreness from sitting at a desk all day
  • strained eyes from staring at a computer all day. Headaches, blurry vision or teary eyes can be early signs of eye strain
  • respiratory problems due to poor ventilation in the office.

These types of injuries are fairly obvious, but people also suffer from other work-related ailments that often go unnoticed and untreated.

Long hours, tight deadlines or even conflict with work colleagues can result in high levels of stress and anxiety for some people, potentially leading to physical problems including high blood pressure and the risk of stroke or heart attack. It can also cause psychological problems that can affect family life or lead to drug and alcohol addictions.

Stress-related injuries can also be caused from doing the same task repetitively or sitting and standing for long periods. Sore wrists, fingers and hands from too much typing or data entry are common and often not linked back to work place injuries. It is important that you monitor carefully any stresses on your body that may result from your work.

More generally, some office workers suffer from poor general health due to lack of exercise and a poor diet.

There are some simple things you can do to make your work environment safe and healthy.

  1. Think before you lift. Never try to lift something that might be too heavy for you. When you do lift something, remember to bend from the knees and not from the back.
  2. Be on the lookout for potential hazards, such as puddles of water on the floor, books stacked precariously on a filing cabinet, or cables lying around. If you see any hazards like this, immediately inform your manager to take corrective action.
  3. Maintain a good sitting posture, with your back straight and shoulders relaxed. For ladies, don't sit with crossed legs the whole day as this can limit blood flow.
  4. If you are sitting in an office most of the day make sure you take a break regularly: It is important that you are not stuck to your chair and computer for long hours with no break. Your body needs to stretch and relax.
  5. Take regular breaks from looking at your computer screen - every 30 minutes, spend 30 seconds looking at something in the distance to stretch your eyes and ensure that they focus.
  6. Manage your time effectively to reduce stress levels. Ensure you prioritise and do what is important first.
  7. Be physically active and get a good night's rest. Going for a run or a swim will boost your fitness, reduce stress levels, and help you sleep well.
  8. Ensure you eat regularly and that you eat a balanced diet. Refrain from drinking a lot of coffee, especially after lunch, so that you get a good night's rest. Try to cut back or quit bad habits such as smoking or drinking a lot.
  9. Do exercises at your desk: Twist your wrists, in a sitting position "stand" on your toes to stretch your calf muscles, stretch your eyes in circles, roll your head to the left and right to take a break, stand up and touch your toes.

Most importantly, don't be afraid to raise health and safety concerns with your manager or the HR manager. Most office hazards can be dealt with easily and cheaply. It is better to alert your manager to a potential hazard than to "tough it out", suffer an injury and have to take time off work. Maintaining a safe workplace is in everyone's interests.

______________________________________________________
Sean Power is a consultant to HRINC, one of Cambodia's

leading HR services firms, and Sandra D'Amico is the managing director.

Contact hrinc@hrinc.com.kh for more information.

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