Safety Tip of the Week: Preventing back pain and injury at work

Woman sitting at computer desk with hands holding waistline as if having pain in back

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about preventing back pain and injury at work.

Heavy lifting, repetitive motion and sitting at a desk all day can cause back pain. Get the facts about back pain and how to prevent it.

Whether it’s dull and achy or sharp and stabbing, back pain can make it hard to concentrate. Many different occupations can place demands on your back. Including routine office work can cause or worsen back pain. It’s important to understand what may cause back pain at work and what you can do to prevent it.

Common causes of back pain at work according to the Mayo Clinic.

  • Exerting too much force on your back — such as by lifting or moving heavy objects — can cause injury.
  • Repeating certain movements, especially those that involve twisting or rotating your spine, can injure your back.
  • An inactive job or a desk job can contribute to back pain, especially if you have poor posture or sit all day in a chair with inadequate back support.

Back pain and lifestyle factors

Of course, factors such as aging, obesity and poor physical condition also can contribute to back pain.

Start by making a healthy eating plan. Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients can help prevent osteoporosis, a condition that causes your bones to become weak and brittle and may lead to back pain.

Combine aerobic exercise, such as swimming or walking, with exercises that strengthen and stretch your back muscles and abdomen. Exercises that increase your balance and strength can also decrease your risk of falling and injuring your back. Consider tai chi, yoga and weight-bearing exercises that challenge your balance.

For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity — preferably spread throughout the week — and strength training exercises at least twice a week.

Preventing back pain

You can take steps to avoid and prevent back pain. For example the Mayo Clinic recommends the following:

  • Pay attention to posture.When standing, balance your weight evenly on your feet. Don’t slouch. To promote good posture when sitting, choose a chair that supports your spinal curves. Adjust the height of your chair so that your feet rest flat on the floor or on a footrest and your thighs are parallel to the floor. Remove your wallet or cellphone from your back pocket when sitting to prevent putting extra pressure on your buttocks or lower back.
  • Lift properly.When lifting and carrying a heavy object, lift with your legs and tighten your core muscles. Hold the object close to your body. Maintain the natural curve of your back. Don’t twist when lifting. If an object is too heavy to lift safely, ask someone to help you.
  • Modify repetitive tasks.Use lifting devices, when available, to help you lift loads. Try to alternate physically demanding tasks with less demanding ones. If you work at a computer, make sure that your monitor, keyboard, mouse and chair are positioned properly. If you frequently talk on the phone and type or write at the same time, place your phone on speaker or use a headset. Avoid unnecessary bending, twisting and reaching. Limit the time you spend carrying heavy briefcases, purses and bags. Consider using a rolling suitcase.
  • Listen to your body.If you must sit for a prolonged period, change your position often. Periodically walk around and gently stretch your muscles to relieve tension.

Back pain can make everyday tasks difficult. Taking some simple steps to take care of your back will make your days more enjoyable.

District offers flu shot clinics


Doctor holds sign stating Flu Shots HereThe Olympia School District is committed to helping keep students, staff, parents/guardians and community members healthy throughout the flu season. The district has partnered again this year with the Seattle Visiting Nurse Association (SVNA) to provide flu shot clinics.

The clinics are open to all OSD staff, students, families (children must be four years of age or older) and community members. Please note that students under 18 will need a Patient Consent Form signed by a parent/legal guardian.

Students under 18 without insurance coverage will be offered the shot at no cost. Adults without coverage must pay $30 by cash or check.

Clinic dates and locations:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 24, Olympia High School, 2:45-6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 25, Capital High School, 2:45-6 p.m.

For more information, please contact Jeff Carpenter, director of health, fitness, athletics at 360-596-8544 or

Safety Tip of the Week: Register for the Great Washington ShakeOut on Oct. 19

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares some tips about heading back to school safely.

The Great Washington ShakeOut!

Participating in the Great Washington ShakeOut is a good way for the Olympia School District and the local community to get prepared for an earthquake emergency. Practicing together as a voluntary nationwide earthquake drill will help prepare the district in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The Great Washington ShakeOut is scheduled on October 19, 2017. Schools or individuals may register for the ShakeOut any time prior to the event. In addition, if a school is unable to do the drill on October 19, it can choose a date that works for that building and may still register and log the drill for participation.

Between now and October 19:

Earthquake hazards vary from region to region, but most of Washington is prone to earthquakes, and the Olympia Region definitely is a hazard area. You may be anywhere when an earthquake strikes — at work, home, school or the store.

How we prepare now in advance of an earthquake will impact the response and recovery at the time of the event. The ShakeOut is organized to help get organizations and our district up-to-date by reviewing and updating our emergency preparedness plans and supplies.

EVERYONE in Washington state can participate in the Great Washington ShakeOut and is encouraged to do so!

The ShakeOut drill is scheduled for 10:19 a.m. on October 19. The main goal is to help Washingtonians prepare for a major earthquake, so don’t miss out on this annual opportunity. 

OSDEF is accepting grant applications; deadline is July 14 for fall grants

Official OSDEF logoThe Olympia School District Education Foundation (OSDEF) is accepting grant applications for the 2017-18 school year. Although applications may be submitted at any time of the year, if funds are needed for Fall 2017, an application must be sent to the OSDEF by July 14, 2017. Grants approved in August will be funded in September.

Grant requests will be evaluated based on commitment to the OSDEF mission: to provide programs and services to students and partners with teachers to enhance educational success and promote learning for all students of the Olympia School District.

Grant categories, guidelines and applications are available online on the OSDEF website. Questions may be directed to Bev Sperry in the OSDEF office. She can be reached by email at or at the office phone, (360) 596-6110. Bev is available during the summer months.

OSPI opioid abuse awareness campaign

Graphic of prescription pills with red circle and line through Opioid Abuse


The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), along with other state agencies and partners, launched an opioid abuse awareness campaign last month and has been sharing valuable information on its website. The six-week education campaign is designed to prevent opioid misuse and abuse.

This is a great opportunity to raise awareness and create open lines of communication with communities, parents and students about prescription drugs. Opioid abuse is a state and national epidemic, and there has continued to be one death per day or more of opioid-related deaths each year since before 2015 — more than the number of deaths from car crashes, and it is preventable.

In 1736 Benjamin Franklin stated “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This axiom accurately reflects this campaign’s goals. Let’s help by learning how to start communicating this serious problem.

The following are some resources shared by OSPI on this important topic:

  • Learn about what medications contain opioids, understand the definition of medicine abuse and what can be done about it, learn how to prevent and reverse overdose, and understand how to find a “take back site” to turn in old or unused medications. Start Talking Now is a project of the Washington Healthy Youth Coalition. Visit the Start Talking Now website.
  • Learn more about  prescription drug abuse prevention at Athena through the Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery.

Understanding travel authorization and travel reimbursement

Business Manager Justin Lanting has shared the following information to communicate about Travel Authorization and Travel Reimbursement.

Note: Travel authorization is only required for travel outside of Thurston County.

Travel Authorization is done on a Treeno Form (PDF) before embarking on a trip, while Travel Reimbursement is completed in Skyward Employee Access prior (meal per-diem) or after having returned from the trip.

It is important that employees know that travel authorization does not produce payment of any type. Completing the travel expense reimbursement in Skyward and having it approved by all necessary supervisors is the only way to receive cash disbursement.

Payments are processed weekly and are deposited on Fridays.  If the reimbursement is fully approved on Monday, payment is issued on the Friday of the same week. Employees with approved reimbursements receive an email on Tuesday prior to the Friday funding.

There are a variety of resources on the Business Services Forms Web page that assist employees in understanding travel authorization and reimbursement. The following documents can be accessed after signing into the Forms page:

  • Travel Request Form
  • How to Submit an Electronic Travel Request Authorization
  • In-District Travel Log for Itinerant Staff
  • How to Complete a Travel Log and Submit a Travel Expense Reimbursement
  • Travel Procedures
  • How to Submit a Travel Expense Reimbursement
  • Mileage Chart
  • Mileage and Per Diem Rates
  • CHS Mileage Chart for Sports Travel
  • OHS Mileage Chart for Sports Travel

OSDEF reopens grant applications

OSDEF logoThe Olympia School District Education Foundation (OSDEF) has reopened grant applications for the remainder of this school year, including applications for programs/events this spring, summer and fall of 2017.

Grant categories, guidelines and applications are available online on the OSDEF website. Limited funds are available.

Questions may be sent to the Foundation at or by contacting Bev Sperry in the OSDEF office at (360) 596-6110.