Some people hit the gym and resolve to eat healthier diets at the beginning of each new year. Colusa County workers are reaching for health goals that benefit them and the taxpayers with practices that can be adopted in many different workplaces.
Because health officials say “sitting is the new smoking,” which drains one’s health, county employees are paying extra attention to their workplace habits.
“We need to make sure that we are supported and neutral,” said Todd Manouse, who has been in charge of Occupational Safety and Health for the county for the past seven years. “I promote stand up and move. Part of that is we’re allowed to stretch 15 minutes of every day, and it’s been a very successful program.”
Manouse added that it is good for morale and overall health to work out some of the physical kinks from sitting as that periodic movement reduces physical and mental stress. Each department has an assigned part of the day that works for the office staff, and Manouse said that people have approached him and confirm the positive benefits it has made.
“It really is to try to reduce sprains and strains, but we also built in this kind of a fun component to it to get a little something back,” Manouse said.
After participating in the program, the employees put their name in a monthly and yearly drawing.
“The cost of a worker compensation claim and the impact overall to an organization having somebody absent far outweighs the little bit that we put up front in promoting this program and giving a little incentive to it. So that’s the beauty behind it. It can be fun and enjoyable and it can make you then want to do more for your own personal health and wellness.”
Briefly standing up about every 30 minutes to a hour, walking on lunch breaks, and holding coworkers accountable are some of the techniques that county employees have adopted. The stretch sessions start from the top of the body at the neck and work down to the legs.
There are creative fixes that can be done in lieu of the newest office equipment with the latest ergonomic design. Monouse recommends keeping the body from twisting. A thick book could be used to adjust a computer monitor and keyboard so that the user sits upright with elbows bent at 90 degrees and eyes straight forward so that the neck is not bent.
“Your next position is your best position,” said Manouse. He teaches county employees to listen to their bodies when sitting or standing still for extended periods of time.
“It’s okay to be a fidgeter,” he said. “The movement is actually good. Moderation is the key.”
For Manouse, safety has been a part of his career 20 years prior to coming to work for the county. In the United States Air Force, Manouse was involved in quality assurance and started the first process improvement office when stationed in Wichita, Kan. He went on to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and studied industrial ergonomics, and part of his degree is in Occupational Safety and Health. He continues his education by attending seminars and training.
“I have learned the importance of wellness and fitness, overall wellness and balance, and how turnover and absenteeism impact any organization, whether it’s going to be a county or private sector,” he said.
Manouse said that he has seen Caltrans huddle around in a circle and perform stretches before beginning their shift and said similar tactics could apply to auto mechanics and those lifting a shovel.
“Any sport that a person would participate in general is going to do some type of a warm up and a stretch, followed by a cool down and maybe even a stretch afterwards,” he said. “It is a proven method. Even pro athletes get injuries, but most of the time, it’s about conditioning and preparation. So when you have a person who’s sedentary in an office, I promote stand up and move.” ■