The occupational health and safety problems associated with not taking regular food breaks was leading to over-eating, food poisoning and weight gain as well as lower job satisfaction, according to Corporate Bodies International.
“In terms of taking breaks and the health benefits of that, underground workers are definitely healthier,” CBI dietitian and exercise specialist Helen Scott said.
She added that many above-ground workers skip meals or eat at their desk in front of their keyboard.
Kestrel mine longwall superintendent Justin Lawrence – who splits his time above and below ground – said he was surprised to learn that research shows the average desk has 400 times more bacteria than a typical toilet seat.
“I normally eat at my desk while I am working so I was particularly alarmed to find out how much bacteria was on a keyboard,” Lawrence said.
“I generally eat healthy but the variety of food provided was great and it has motivated me to get out of the office to eat lunch in future.”
Last week, Kestrel provided workers with a free healthy lunch supported by a brief educational presentation about the food being consumed and opportunities for workers to talk to a variety of health experts.
“The week was very positive and I enjoyed sitting and talking to people that I wouldn’t normally get the chance to socialise with,” Lawrence said.
Kestrel Mine health advisor Ed Boonstra said the initiative was part of the mine’s focus to change the work culture onsite and educate workers about nutrition, exercise, and work/life balance.
“We had more than 50 people join the lunches each day, which was a great result,” Boonstra said.
“The food we provided included healthy takeaway food, healthier BBQ food as we move into summer, vegetarian food, and organic food.
“The presentations spoke about everything from the benefits of a lunch break to portion control to how people can purchase organic food in Emerald.
“It is an extension of the work we already do through the global Rio Tinto Achieve Health program, which educates and encourages people to lead healthier lifestyles.
“We hope this initiative encourages us all to take a proper lunch break.
“We know that there are many benefits to taking a healthy lunch break, such as higher energy levels, increased productivity, and increased personnel interaction and staff morale.
“This initiative also allows us to be a more knowledgeable and active workforce when it comes to health and wellbeing.”
Research showed one in four Australian employees eat lunch at their desk.
“This figure is more than twice the number of people who eat outside,” Scott said.
“Eating lunch at your desk decreases the awareness and enjoyment associated with eating, which means people are more likely to overeat and this can lead to obesity.
“Regular breaks are important to increase productivity and decrease the risk of repetitive strain injuries.
“We know one in six employees skip lunch frequently. I believe these statistics are significantly higher at Kestrel Mine among surface employees, which is why the Healthy Lunch Week is a great initiative.”
Boonstra said the initiative was motivated by the concerns of underground employee Craig Firth who also sits on the site’s Health Committee.
“Craig has been working on the surface for the last few months and noticed that people working on the surface rarely took lunch breaks and most of the time ate at their desks,” Boonstra said.
“From this feedback we saw the opportunity to incorporate other nutritious and healthy lifestyle initiatives from the Achieve Health program.
“In August, we ran a series of seminars for employees and their families focusing on what we put into our bodies.
“The seminars also talked about how the body uses and expends food energy and were designed to address some of the high health risk issues that came from our Achieve Health assessments done earlier in the year.
“Although we invited all employees and contractors to take part in Healthy Lunch Week, it was particularly tailored for surface employees and contractors as underground employees already take regular crib breaks.
“However, we are planning another initiative more targeted at our underground workers that will focus on breakfast meals.
“We’ve received some information suggesting that a nutritious breakfast before work is not always a high priority for this group.
“Plus we also want to ensure that all employees have an equal opportunity to improve their health.”