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City targets ‘sitting disease’ with desks

Shelly Gray, department secretary for The Dalles Public Works Department, said the new standing work station  has eliminated her neck strain and allows her to be more comfortable at work.

Photo by Jesse Burkhardt
Shelly Gray, department secretary for The Dalles Public Works Department, said the new standing work station has eliminated her neck strain and allows her to be more comfortable at work.

The city of The Dalles is doing its part to help find a cure for “sitting disease.”

In a move to keep its employees healthier, the city has launched a new program to provide sit-or-stand work stations for employees who must be at their desks most of the day.

The city’s move is based on an American Medical Association report that significant health risks are related to too much sitting.

According to the Center for Disease Control,

standing helps to relieve pressure on the lower back and reduce compression of the spine; improves energy levels; increases circulation and leads to better blood flow.

Standing also burns more calories than sitting; assists with energy balance and weight management; may improve bone density over time; improves posture; tones muscle; and also is seen as promoting more restful sleep.

According to City Manager Julie Krueger, that’s why the city has invested in a few of these adjustable, portable work stations, with 10 more on the way.

On Monday, the city council approved the purchase for the stations, which cost about $400 each. Krueger said funds for the new work stations come from a special line item in the city council budget that essentially pays for itself.

“The money was to be used for items that would be considered safety or improved ergonomics, things that make a safer workplace or alleviate working conditions that could lead to poor health,” she explained “The money in that line item is money the city received from dividends from the SAIF (State Accident Insurance Fund) premiums. Sometimes SAIF returns money to cities, and that money has been set aside for these types of uses.”

Employees in public works are already seeing direct benefits from the program.

“We have two stations currently; they’re both in our main office,” said Jo Kemper, regulatory compliance manager.

She said the new devices arrived about six months ago, and have exceeded the expectations of the two employees who use them.

“I was dancing earlier,” joked Shelly Gray, the department secretary. “Seriously though, they’re amazing. It’s a lot more comfortable than sitting all day. I don’t get neck strain from it, and it’s nice to be able to move around.”

Gray added that she has been impressed with how solidly the platforms are designed.

“I was afraid they would wobble, but they’re so sturdy and very stable,” she said.

Kathy Sandoz, who works as an account clerk for public works, said she has noticed a direct health benefit from being able to stand while she works.

“I do a lot of data entry,” Sandoz said. “Before we had these, I was getting pain in my arms all the time. Now it’s gone.”

Kemper said the job duties the two employees handle usually require them to be at their desks.

“These two desks are almost always occupied, so these two positions really benefit from having these stations,” she said. “I think they’ve been happier.”

Kemper, who also chairs the city’s safety committee, said the idea of having the standing stations was discussed several times in the committee’s meetings.

“I brought up that they’ve been really well received here, and I’ve encouraged other offices to get them as well,” she said.

According to Krueger, SAIF funding is also being used to provide city police with new safety vests that more efficiently distribute weight away from the officers’ hips and backs. Special mats have also been purchased for the public library to help employees who stand for long periods of time.

The idea is that taking these types of steps will result in fewer medical claims, Krueger said.

Both Sandoz and Gray said they appreciate that the city is being proactive in trying to improve working conditions for its employees.

“I was really surprised when they offered to purchase one for me,” Gray said.


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