Bill and Ben versus the workplace biohazards

It’s official – your workplace can be hazardous to your health.

No, we’re not referring to dodgy sandwiches or the practical jokes that went down at the last office party (though these could make a very unnerving article in their own right). What we’re bringing to light is the fact that your IT equipment, the materials it’s made from and packaged in, the furnishings and fittings and even the stuff everything gets cleaned with can produce toxic chemicals that can have unpleasant effects on the workforce’s health.

These amounts of chemicals such as xylene, styrene, toluene, benzene, carbon monoxide emitted in the office environment are small  – but they can be enough to cause sore throats, itchy eyes, headaches and respiratory and  sinus problems.

Offices are well insulated and draught-proofed too – which is great for saving money and keeping everyone comfortable, but not so great for ventilating the harmful gases out of peoples’ workspaces. The symptoms caused by noxious chemicals can be noticed especially on a Monday morning , when the gases have backed up over the weekend  without the general people-flow of the working day which would otherwise help a little to diffuse them.

There’s no need to go to work in a gas mask (though it’s worth pointing out that when these were originally made during World War I, they came with an inbuilt asbestos filter!) – the chemicals can be kept at bay by the humble houseplant.

Many businesses have used plants as living décor, without realising how useful they can be as a health asset. The plants – including ivy, ferns, rubber plants, money plants, spider plants and aloe vera – absorb the noxious compounds, recycle them into nutrients in their roots and release oxygen back into the air – and they are very efficient at it too. According to NASA, one spider plant can reduce the amount of carbon monoxide in a room by 96% over 24 hours.

Here’s our quick guide to the green line of defence against everyday chemical warfare:

The chemical culprits Where they come from Best plants to combat them
Xylene Monitors & printers Areca palm, Boston fern
Trichloroethene Paint & cleaning materials Dragon tree, Money plant
Formaldehyde Carpets, MDF furniture, insulation Boston fern, Monstera
Benzene Paint, detergents, glue, vehicles, cigarette smoke Ivy, Asparagus fern
Ammonia Cleaning  materials Peace lily
Styrene Plastics, resins, packaging, insulation Spider plant
Toluene Monitors & printers, glue, correction fluids Mother in law’s tongue, Bamboo palm
Carbon Monoxide Vehicles, stoves, cookers Aloe vera, Rubber plant

Keeping Fit while using your computer.

Did You Know?
• Display-screen equipment users can experience a wide range of health problems including eyestrain, blurred vision, headaches, mental stress and musculoskeletal problems including RSI (repetitive-strain injury).
• 1 in 50 of all British workers have reported an RSI condition.
• RSI cost the UK’s workforce 5.4 million working days in sick leave last year.
• The most common forms of work-related ill-health are back problems.
• Every year 1.2 million people are affected by back complaints, with 10 million working days lost.

A few simple exercises can be surprisingly effective weapon in the war against workplace-related ailments. So while the computers start up and the kettle boils, take five to stay healthy at your workstation with Ghost IT’s power-up workout…

RSI-buster for your fingers
Hold your palms together in front of your chest in “prayer position” stretching all the fingers. Relax your shoulders and stretch the heel of your palms down until they are the level of your wrists. Increase the stretch by moving the hands over to the right and then to the left.
Combat neck pain and eyestrain
Turn your head right and left, looking into the far distance. Close your eyes and take some deep, slow breaths and open your eyes.
Release your shoulders
Place the right palm on the wall and fan out your fingers. Press the palm into the wall, turn your head to the left, swinging your right shoulder blade to the left too. Repeat with the other hand.
Work that neck
Shrug the shoulders high up to the ears and then release and drop. Repeat at least 3 times then shake your wrists and arms, letting them dangle from your shoulders.
Upper back relaxer
Sit with an upright torso, with your head resting comfortably and naturally on your neck. Bring your hands down to the seat of the chair and roll your shoulders back.
Lower back toner
Interlock your fingers behind your back, palms towards your spine. Roll your shoulders back, stretch out our elbows and arms and hold it for a few breaths. Bend your elbows and bring your wrists to the right side, pressing the right elbow towards the left. Release and repeat on the other side.

• Remember to take plenty of screen breaks to rest your eyes if you use display screen equipment for the major part of your working day.
• Also, get up and walk around regularly to stretch your legs and lower back if you are sitting for long periods.
• Don’t overdo or “bounce” the stretching. You should feel a gentle, easy stretch: if there is any pain, stop.

If you would like more advice on your posture then contact Ben Cohen Osteopathy they can provide treatment for a range of work related back conditions.

Treatments include: Osteopathy, Sports massage & Deep Tissue Massage, Medical Acupuncture and Kinesiology Taping.