Risk Insider: Dwayne Eastwood

Stand Up for Health

By: | August 14, 2014

Dwayne M. Eastwood, MBA, ARM, CSP, CFPS, CEAS III, is the risk manager for McCoy’s Building Supply, a building supply retailer with 87 locations. He received a B.S. in Fire Protection and Safety from Oklahoma State University and earned his MBA from Howard Payne University. He can be reached at [email protected].

I first noticed someone standing at a desk a couple years ago. At the time, the practice seemed unusual, but many studies have reported the health benefits of standing versus sitting.

As early as 1953, British researchers found that bus drivers were twice as likely to die of heart attacks as standing trolley operators. This is an alarming statistic considering society is more sedentary today than it was 60 years ago!

The Centers for Disease Control conducted a seven-week study of workers with sedentary jobs. CDC researchers added a device to workers’ desks that allowed the employee to sit and stand. The Take-a-Stand Project reduced sitting by 66 minutes per day, resulting in 54 percent less upper back and neck pain and improved moods.

The American Journal of Epidemiology found in a 2010 study that women who sit for more than six hours a day versus three hours a day had an approximately 40 percent higher all-cause death rate, and men had an approximately 20 percent higher death rate. This association was independent of the amount of physical activity the study subjects engaged in for the rest of the day.

As a society, we are sitting more, resulting in a sedentary lifestyle.

“As early as 1953, British researchers found that bus drivers were twice as likely to die of heart attacks as standing trolley operators.”

There are more televisions and computers in the average household than ever before. In the 1960s, the average household contained only one television. Today, a television in every room is not uncommon.

The number of home computers, tablets and smart phones continue to rise. In addition, more workers are working in offices.

Lack of activity is one contributing factor to coronary artery disease, caused by plaque buildup that may require surgery to bypass. Coronary artery bypass surgery costs approximately $100,000 in the U.S. The average cost for people diagnosed with diabetes in 2012 was $13,700 per year.

The sit-stand path to improved health is compelling. It can be hard to place a hard number on ROI, but if you consider the reduction in medical expenses for employees that may have an obesity problem, diabetes, coronary artery disease, etc. it’s easy to see that there would be a long-term ROI.

For an office with 200 workers, assume that 10 percent choose the sit-stand option. There are a couple of very versatile devices on the market that can be added to a desk that cost an average of $600. Twenty workers times $600 equals $12,000.

That amount is inexpensive compared to the cost of serious medical treatment. The return on investment could be measured by the cost of one coronary bypass surgery or one year of diabetes treatment. Not to mention improved productivity and happier workers.

Top management support is absolutely necessary for the installation of sit-stand desks to be successful. Someone within the company should be responsible for knowing the options and assisting with adjustments. If the devices are not adjusted properly, the user may experience discomfort.

Some view a sit-stand desk option as a fad. But that’s neither true or on-point.

Our emphasis should be on improving employee health and reducing the risk factors associated with the calamities of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

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