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New Hazards at the Office

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Do you spend large amounts of time glued to your computer screen at the office? Does your daily exercise consist of an occasional bathroom break and a brief walk for a coffee refill? A new study out of New Zealand indicates that a "yes" to these questions may mean you have a higher risk of forming deadly blood clots than most long-distance air travelers.

It's called deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. It's also known colloquially as "economy class syndrome," because it was first associated with long distance flights in which passengers, particularly those seated in economy class, had little opportunity for movement. The absence of legroom in economy class, as well as the more crowded conditions, means passengers are forced to sit for lengthy periods. DVT is a condition, then, in which a blood clot forms in one of the veins of the leg or pelvis. The clot can break off and block a blood vessel in one of the lungs, resulting in death.

Professor Richard Beasley, who headed the study, discovered that a large number of patients admitted to hospitals with blood clots had been seated at work for hours and hours. For some, they had sat for periods longer than all but the longest long-distance flights. It wasn't uncommon for people to report twelve to fourteen hours of work at a stretch. But even employees who sit for three to four hours are at risk.

1.4% of people who report blood clots have recently traveled on a plane. Compare this to 34% who have just come in from the office. The figures are alarming, and demonstrate the sedentary nature of the modern work environment.

The study covered sixty-two patients aged 65 and younger.

Preview some of the lesson material:

Warm Up: Do you agree or disagree? Why?

  1. On average, people are unhealthier than ever before.
  2. I would prefer to work indoors instead of outdoors.
  3. An office job is dangerous enough to threaten your life.
  4. Employers should protect the health and safety of their employees.
  5. If a person dies to help/save his family, he is a hero. If a person dies to help/save his company, he is a fool.

True or False: Guess (before the article) or answer (after the article) whether the sentence is true or false. If false, correct the sentence.

  1. Is it dangerous to spend a lot of time at your computer?
  2. Long-distance air travelers have a higher risk for deep vein thrombosis.
  3. DVT and economy class syndrome are different medical conditions.
  4. According to Beasley, some people entering the hospital had worked for twelve to fourteen hours.
  5. According to the article, people are sitting for longer periods of time at work.

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers!

  1. What can you do to lower the risk of deep vein thrombosis at the workplace?
  2. Should employers be responsible for health and safety at the office? If yes, what should they do about DVT?
  3. If a coworker died of DVT after working for fourteen hours, is he/she responsible? Why/not?
  4. What other hazards can you think of in association with the office?
  5. What would be the perfect office environment? Is it likely you will ever work in such a place?

Google Search: Type "deep vein thrombosis" into Google. Look at the websites, and/or read additional articles on this topic. Discuss or write an essay about your findings.

Download the lesson:

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