Workplace Safety for Your Bum

It’s a different, and even perhaps a slightly irreverent title. The intent was to get your attention, because the comfort and care of our nether regions seem to be a topic that goes unaddressed. Sadly, any discomfort from sitting is just accepted as ‘one of those things’, and most people never give a thought to their seating arrangements, until that affliction of afflictions hits them – the numb bum.

I want you to consider for a moment: How much time do you spend sitting?

The truth is the majority of working roles force people to spend a huge amount of time sitting – and they never take into account that resulting discomfort plays a major role in fatigue, irritability, injury and lack of motivation. Sitting is a part of:

  • the office setting – as a receptionist, bookkeeper, telemarketer, keyboard operator, IT specialist, manager or copy writer, etc.
  • driving – delivery, company car, truck, taxi, bus, mining vehicles, heavy duty vehicles on construction sites, or farming equipment, etc.
  • aviation services – as a pilot of a helicopter or plane.

Even commuting to and from the workplace can have you sitting for extended periods!

Meet Jill

Meet Jill. She is a keyboard operator for a credit company, working 5 days a week. Jill’s life in relation to sitting is as follows:

  • Commute to work on a train = 1 hour of sitting
  • Arrives in office to begin work at 9am and sits in a chair until 10.30am – with one stretch break as she gets a drink during period. = 1 and a half hours of sitting
  • Morning tea is twenty minutes which consists of 15 minutes sitting in the tea room and then a toilet break = 15 mins sitting
  • Re-commences work at 10.40am and works through until 12pm = 1hour, 20 mins of sitting
  • Jill collects her lunch from the fridge and catches the lift downstairs to have lunch in the park near her building. She sits reading a book until 12.45pm then returns back to her workplace to go to the toilet, have a quick chat with the Receptionist, and grab a glass of water for the next work session =  40 mins sitting
  • Jill works from 1pm to 3.15pm, her longest stint = 2hours, 15mins
  • Afternoon tea is twenty minutes which consists of 15 minutes in the tea room and a toilet break and another coffee to get her through the afternoon = 15 mins sitting
  • Re-commencing work at 3.35pm, Jill works until 5pm = 1hour, 25mins sitting.
  • Jill walks to the train station, stands for 5mins on the platform (thank goodness!) waiting for her train, and then sits for the next hour home = 1hour.
  • When she gets home she organises dinner and settles down to two hours of her favourite TV shows, feeling exhausted and a litte irritable due to the ache in her lower back. She relishes this time out after a full days work – the only draw back is she’s sitting again… = another 2 hours.

That’s a day of 11 hours and 40 minutes sitting.

Do you do something similar? It might be behind the wheel of a vehicle or in a ‘cabin’ operating heavy machinery. You might even spend longer sessions than Jill during long shifts in the one seated position, often resulting in an aching back, sore neck and numb bum.

Have you ever considered the amount of stress that is placed on your back and spine sitting for so long? Have you ever considered that the fatigue you experience by the end of the day (or even earlier) is due to your bum and therefore lumbar region, back and spine being denied the comfort  and support it needs?

The average seat whether it be an office chair, pilot’s seat, truck seat, machinery operator’s seat and driver’s seat fails to provide appropriate pressure distribution where you make contact with the seat. You seem to have constant pressure on certain points of your bum and thighs which eventually cuts off blood supply to these areas, leading to a numb bum and legs, and even long-term circulatory issues. Do you ever find yourself squirming to find a better position, only needing to squirm all the more 10 minutes later?

If you are in machinery or a vehicle that experiences vibration (aircraft, trucks, cars, machinery, buses, etc.) due to engine vibration, rough roads or changing terrain, there is added stress to your body as it fights the vibration and gravity in search of stability. The body’s fight against these forces leads to fatigue and muscular pain. And did you know that being seated for long periods over time can contribute to spinal compression?

Safety through CushionsThere are cushions available on the market that can help to relieve pressure by cushioning you correctly, absorb vibration (protecting your back and spine), and avoid heat build up. The leader in this field is AirHawk Cushions, who make cushions specifically designed for the aviation industry, mining industry, etc. and they have cushions to suit cars, buses, trucks, large machinery, office chairs, helicopters and planes, etc.

AirHawk Cushions have a unique design of interconnected air cells that mould to your individual shape – and you can adjust the amount of air pressure in them to suit you whenever you feel like it. The technology company behind AirHawk, ROHO has tested the air cell cushion and found it doesn’t compress like foam and gel cushions do over time.

The other asset of these cushions is that you can take them anywhere – they’re low profile and have washable covers. So Jill (our keyboard operator in the case study above) could use her cushion in the office, on the park bench, on the train, and even at home.

Check out AirHawk’s Website for more details.

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

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