Poor cardiovascular health is the leading cause of death amongst Australians, with approximately 118 individuals dying from some form of cardiovascular disease each day. The most common types of cardiovascular disease include: heart attacks or heart failures, stroke, heart valve diseases, heart rhythm disorders or artery/vein diseases.

In addition to the common risk factors (e.g. age, gender, family history, diet and lifestyle choices), several occupational risk factors can also play a role in deteriorating heart health. 

Occupational risk factors

Physical, chemical and psychosocial occupational risk factors can elevate blood pressure, negatively impact the cardiovascular system and increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. These include:

  • Prolonged noise exposure above 80 decibels (Db)
  • Whole body vibrations (caused by machinery)
  • Prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures (hot or cold)
  • Long periods of physical inactivity
  • Prolonged intense manual labour e.g. heavy lifting
  • Exposure to carbon monoxide – typically found in boilers, furnaces and vehicle exhausts
  • Exposure to heavy metals e.g. lead, cobalt and arsenic – highly prevalent in construction and manufacturing industries
  • Long-term exposure to environmental tobacco smoke
  • Shift work
  • Inflexible schedules
  • Job insecurity
  • Long working hours
  • Prolonged stress
  • Poor workplace culture e.g. discrimination, microaggressions and racism

Long-term exposure to these risk factors can reduce employee and general workplace productivity, increase health-related limitations on employee responsibilities, increase work absences and decrease employee quality of life, leading to low staff retention rates.

4 ways to manage cardiovascular risk factors in the workplace

1. Conduct site risk assessments 

Site risk assessments can help you make informed decisions on how to best protect your employees’ health based on the specific stressors and hazards present in your workplace. A quality site risk assessment can also protect your organisation from legal liabilities and financial burdens associated with workplace incidents.

Our occupational physician consulting services include site risk assessments across a range of industries, and can help identify risk factors ranging from chemical substance exposure to physical and mental stressors.

2. Offer regular workplace health screenings

Regular hazardous substance health monitoring can help identify changes in employees’ cardiovascular health status. Consistent monitoring can help inform the effectiveness of workplace risk mitigation measures and guide the development of additional controls.

3. Equip employees with health education tools

Engaging employees in regular health education can improve worker engagement, team cohesiveness, energy, stress and concentration levels, social responsibility and productivity. Well informed employees are also less likely to suffer from poor mental health and workplace absenteeism. 

Check out our free workplace poster below with eight tips on how to maintain a healthy heart.

4. Promote a healthy workplace environment

Organisations that embed health protection practices across their workplace are more likely to see long-lasting improvements in their employees’ health behaviours.

Consider implementing the following health protection practices:

  • Establish non-smoking areas/promote smoking cessation programs
  • Reduce vending machines around the workplace
  • Offer gym memberships or incentivise physical activity with prizes
  • Offer standing desks
  • Assess if break areas sufficiently foster physical and mental rest and recovery

Healthy Hearts Poster

Heart Foundation (2020) Key statistics: Cardiovascular disease

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