Health & Leisure Conversation in Business English

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Do you know how to raise issues of health and safety at work? Are you comfortable discussing hobbies or favorite sports teams with coworkers? This lesson outlines how to use business English to discuss health and leisure topics in a business setting.

The Language of Health and Leisure

If you work in an English-speaking office environment, you're likely to have many opportunities to have conversations with coworkers and managers about health and leisure topics. If this is the case, it's important to understand the differences between these two topics.

Health topics in the workplace are about safety and maintaining the health of employees - not your personal health condition or issues. Personal health can be a highly sensitive topic and is usually not appropriate for discussion in the workplace unless it's directly impacting your ability to do your job.

Leisure topics can refer to activities and interests outside of work, including hobbies, sports, and other ways in which you spend your free time. Conversations about these topics usually take place during breaks or after work hours when you're engaging with coworkers in a social setting, as most organizations frown upon employees using company time to discuss topics unrelated to work.

Health and Safety

Health and safety can be a serious topic at work. Companies want to be sure that employees are not injured while performing their work duties. If an employee is injured at a company facility and/or during work hours, the company may face legal and financial penalties. In order to ensure safety at work, it's important for you to know how to discuss health and safety issues with your supervisor.

As you read the following conversation, try to guess the meanings of the words in context.

Scenario 1

Jane has noticed that there are too many heavy office supplies on the tall shelves in the supply room. She discusses the issue with her supervisor.

  • Jane: I would like to discuss a workplace safety issue with you.
  • Supervisor: Okay. What's the issue?
  • Jane: I've noticed that the shelves in the supply room are dangerously overloaded with office supplies. I'm concerned that the shelves will tip over and injure someone.
  • Supervisor: I understand, but those shelves have been overloaded for years and nothing's happened yet.
  • Jane: It's still an issue. It must be an OSHA violation.
  • Supervisor: I'll speak with our safety compliance officer about it immediately.
  • Jane: Thank you. I just hope it can be resolved soon.

In this scenario the following health and safety related vocabulary words were used:

  • Workplace safety - safety at work
  • Dangerous (dangerously overloaded) - something that may cause harm
  • Concerned - worried about something
  • Injure - cause harm
  • Issue - a situation that needs to be addressed and resolved
  • OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) - a U.S. government agency that is responsible for setting and enforcing rules and guidelines for workplace safety.
  • Compliance - accepting and following rules and guidelines

Another important health issue you need to be able to discuss in a business setting involves employee wellbeing. Many workers spend hours sitting in front of a computer. This can cause health problems involving the back, wrists, arms, legs, and other body parts. Many companies offer training to employees on how to avoid work-related injuries.

Scenario 2

In this scenario, the office safety coordinator Mary is giving a presentation on how to avoid workplace injuries.

  • Mary: Good afternoon everyone. Today I'd like to discuss a few health and safety issues. First of all, it's very important that you don't remain seated for too long. Try to get up and stretch at least once an hour. I have a pamphlet available that will show you some basic stretches for your back, legs, neck, and arms. Also, if your chair or computer keyboard is causing you back or wrist problems, please speak to me after the meeting and I will make sure that you will get a new one. Remember, there will be a fire drill sometime on Friday. Please make sure you look at the evacuation plan so you'll know where the emergency exits are located.

Mary mentioned several keywords and phrases related to office health and safety:

  • Stretch - moving your muscles to prevent injury
  • Pamphlet - an informational brochure
  • Fire drill - an exercise used to practice fire safety
  • Evacuate - leave a location in a quick and orderly fashion
  • Emergency exit - an exit that can be used during an emergency

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