Other physical workload factors

The most notable physical workload factors are

  • excessive or inefficient manual lifting and carrying
  • repetitive work, and
  • work that involves the use of display screen equipment.

Other physical workload factors that can put employees’ health at risk include

  • having to work in the same position for long periods of time (static work)
  • having to work in tight spaces (e.g. crawling)
  • work that entails climbing
  • work that involves twisting and turning by hand
  • having to use force
  • work that causes vibration
  • having to work in awkward positions
  • having to stand still for long periods of time
  • having to sit still for long periods of time
  • having to work in uneven terrain such as on boggy ground
  • having to work in poor thermal conditions (heat, cold, draughts, humidity), and
  • combinations of the above.

Physical workload is traditionally associated with physically hard work that puts a strain on employees and their bodies. However, the nature of work has changed in the new millennium, and the role of stationary information-intensive work has grown and that of physically hard work shrunk considerably.

Instead of physical strain, more and more workers now face the strain of having to sit still for long periods of time in front of a computer. The static nature of sitting down and muscle inactivity slow down muscle metabolism and lead to muscle tension and weakness. Sitting down for long periods of time also slows down the metabolism in general.

Employers have a duty to factor in all kinds of physical workloads – including the strain of sitting down. All factors that contribute to work-related strain must be addressed and action taken to reduce risks. Early intervention in workload factors that pose a risk to employees’ health is vital. Prevention is the best way to optimise employees’ working conditions and eliminate causes of work-related strain. Employers can turn to their occupational health care provider for advice on how to identify, assess and prevent risks relating to workload.