Managing the risk of sedentary work

Sedentary work poses a potential hazard that many retailers might not have fully recognised. This encompasses scenarios like head office staff spending prolonged periods sitting or reclining, which are common in tasks like computer-based work or sales personnel enduring long drives. Other examples include operating cash registers and assisting customers at information desks or service counters. The rise of technology has led to an increase in sedentary work, with many workers spending extensive time sitting during their workday.

An international study examining nearly 482,000 individuals reveals that sedentary workers face a 34% higher risk of cardiovascular disease-related mortality compared to those with less sedentary occupations.

Those who engage in higher levels of leisure-time physical activity can offset the risks associated with prolonged sitting at work. The findings underscore the importance of reducing prolonged sitting in the workplace and increasing physical activity to mitigate health risks associated with sedentary work.

Managing the Risk

Experts propose that implementing changes within the retail workplace can play a vital role in discouraging sedentary behaviour. Employers in the retail industry can assist by creating dedicated areas for leisure-time physical activity or scheduling structured breaks designed by the employer. Additionally, encouraging the use of wearable devices to monitor movement can further support this initiative.

Practical Guidance

In roles where employees spend prolonged periods sitting or reclining without whole-body movement, there are inherent risks. To address sedentary work in your workplace, consider the following steps:

1. Conduct a workplace inspection:

Take a walkthrough of your business premises to identify areas and tasks that promote sedentary behaviour among workers.

2. Engage with employees:

Encourage open dialogue with your retail team to gather valuable insights on how to redesign work tasks and environments to encourage physical activity and minimise extended periods of sitting.

3. Identification:

Identifying areas, job roles, and the number of workers, including contractors, that may be vulnerable to excessive sitting.

Determining the potential level of harm for each worker associated with prolonged sitting.

4. Recommended Controls:

In the retail industry, consider implementing the following strategies to promote physical activity and reduce prolonged sitting among employees:

  • Reorganising the workplace by centralising bins, photocopiers, and printers to encourage movement.
  • Encourage regular breaks, prompting employees to move every 30 minutes.
  • Diversify work tasks to encourage changes in posture and muscle engagement.
  • Introduce height-adjustable sit-stand desks for flexible working options.
  • Foster a culture supportive of standing, such as providing standing reading areas or conducting standing meetings.
  • Arrange active meetings to facilitate walking discussions.
  • Encourage employees to take lunch breaks away from their desks.
  • Providing workers with information about the risks associated with sedentary work.

By aligning with broader industry priorities, we can strive to contribute to a retail sector that prioritises the wellbeing of its workforce and sets new standards for positive workplace environments.

Guidance Material

Below are some examples of information regarding sedentary work:

Disclaimer: The material within this update is provided for general information and educational purposes in summary form on topics that are current when it is first published. The content does not constitute legal advice or recommendations and should not be relied upon as such.



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